Is Marijuana THC Good for Stress?

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Richard Honaker M.D.
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Is Marijuana Good for Stress?

Marijuana smokers usually say that they use the drug to relieve stress or to simply relax, but very few studies actually give clinical evidence of the mentioned effects.

Recent research from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago has reported that low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC does reduce stress, but in a particularly dose-dependent manner. THC is actually the chief psychoactive compound in marijuana. On the other hand, somewhat higher doses of THC that are enough to generate a minimal high actually intensified anxiety.

Marijuana is a thoroughly regulated category 1 substance, which makes it hard for researchers to get a permit to study the drug. According to one of the authors of the study, it has always been known that people use marijuana to relieve stress, but there are only a few studies that have looked into the effects of THC on stress, or at the effects of the different levels of THC on stress.


About the Latest Research on Marijuana THC and Stress

The research had 42 healthy participants with ages ranging from 18 to 40 years old who have had some experience with marijuana use but who are not daily users. They were randomly distributed into three groups: the low dose group, the moderate dose group, and the placebo group.

The low dose group get to have a capsule that contains 7.5 mg of THC. The moderate dose group get to have a capsule that contains 12.5 mg of THC. The placebo group get to have a capsule that doesn’t contain any THC. The participants and the researchers didn’t know who belong to which group.

According to one of the authors, the doses used in the study are just as much as a few puffs of a marijuana cigarette. And that it’s actually hard to compare doses of smoked marijuana to doses of ingested THC. They didn’t want to incorporate a very large dose because they wanted to prevent adverse effects, most especially cardiovascular ones that may result from larger doses of THC.

The research participants went to four hour sessions at the University of Chicago. There were two sessions which are five days apart. In every session, they were given their capsule and chill for two hours to let the THC be absorbed in their bloodstream.

First Sessions of Testing

In one of the sessions, the participants were asked to prepare for a mock job interview for 10 minutes. After that, they underwent a five minute interview with lab assistants who didn’t give any feedback be it verbal or body language. The participants can see a video display that shows their performance. Then, they were directed to count backwards from a five digit number by subtracting 13 for five minutes. This is a task that was specifically chosen to induce stress from the participants.

Second Sessions of Testing

During the second visit, the participants were asked to converse with the lab assistants about their favorite book or movie for five minutes and then for another five minutes they played a card game called solitaire.

The participants were asked to rate their stress levels and feelings about the tasks before, during, and after each of the mentioned two activities. Blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol which is a key stress hormone, were all measured during breaks.

Research Results

Those who got 7.5 mg of THC have reported less stress after the psychosocial test as compared to those in the placebo group. And their stress levels also disappeared faster after the test.

Those who got the 12.5 mg of THC before the two tasks have reported having more negative mood before and all throughout the task. They were also the ones who in all likelihood would rate the psychosocial task to be challenging and threatening beforehand. They also paused more while in the mock interview as compared to the ones in the placebo group.

No remarkable differences in the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate or cortisol levels were found before, during, or after the doses or the assigned activities.

Is Marijuana Treatment for Depression and Anxiety?

The research findings have provided some support for the common claim that marijuana is used to help minimize stress and assuage tension and anxiety. It has also been revealed that marijuana or THC can also yield the opposite effect when doses are higher.

It only shows that studies such as this one that examines the effects of marijuana and its pharmacological components under controlled situations are very essential, especially with the widespread use of marijuana for medical and non-medical motives or reasons.

However, regulatory hurdles make it very difficult for researchers to conduct their study, when in fact marijuana has become widely available for medical reasons despite the minimal scientific basis.

dr-richard-honakerRichard A. Honaker, M.D. — Chief Medical Advisor at YourDoctors.Online

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Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker:

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

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