"Street marijuana will not cause panic attacks if it has low levels of THC," said addiction specialist Dr. Cali Estes. "However, if they're dabbing or have a high THC content, such as one of the higher strains of marijuana, it will likely cause panic attacks because it acts more like LSD," Dr. Estes said. Some strains of marijuana help users relax, while others may cause paranoia and anxiousness.
However, it strongly depends on how much you take. For example, if you take an edible with high levels THC — think 10mg or higher — which is the active ingredient in weed that gets you high, you're far more likely to feel extremely anxious. "For users who have built a tolerance over time, ingesting an edible with similar THC content is more likely to make the user feel sleepy. So it just depends on the individual and how much they take, in addition to which strain they take," Dr. Estes said.
But how common is this anxiety, and is it anything to worry about? "Some cannabis users can experience anxiety from certain strains — but it's important to note that certain cannabinoids will affect each person differently," said Athena Taylor, budtender at The Herbal Connection in Eugene, OR.
Too much THC can cause some patients nervousness, restlessness, and inability to focus, whereas other patients find a calm from high levels of THC. And for those unfamiliar with sativa and indica, sativa is the strain of weed that generally has a higher THC content and gives you that high feeling. Indica has a lower THC content but higher CBD level. Ultimately though, you should look at the THC/CBD levels of the specific strain you're buying. "Anxiety from weed is not connected to just sativa strains, but also can be cause by some indica strains. High levels of the cannabinoid THC can cause anxiety to those patients sensitive to THC's psychoactive effects," Taylor said.
A good way to avoid anxiety from marijuana use is to know your cannabinoids and know your needs. "THC is the most widely advertised and known cannabinoid, but not the only one," Taylor said. "For those people that get high anxiety from the Mary Jane, I strongly recommend they switch from strains high in THC to those strains containing a higher percent of CBD (like indica types). CBD functions as antianxiety and anti-inflammatory cannabinoid, providing stress relief, a state of calmness, and body buzz," Taylor said. When smoked, CBD provides great relief from headaches and nausea without the psychoactive effects of getting high.
CBN is another cannabinoid found in marijuana that works as a relaxer for the mind and body. "I always encourage people to go online and read about all the wonderful healing cannabinoids found in weed," Taylor said.
Other factors that can cause anxiety are lack of hydration, using on an empty stomach, and current stress levels. "When going into a dispensary to buy marijuana products, make your budtender aware of what effect you want from a strain/product and any past experiences with anxiety," Taylor said.