This is a hard question that looks deceptively simple.
Take a quick look at the google results for “marijuana and anxiety” and you’ll see the problem. One result says that marijuana can be used to treat anxiety and the next one will say that marijuana can cause insanity. I’ve read studies supporting both sides and they both make very convincing points and add that more research is needed. The evidence seems to indicate that marijuana can relieve anxiety for some people sometimes depending on many factors or it can cause anxiety for some people sometimes depending on those same factors. Not very satisfying, so I had to dig deeper.
If we’re going to talk about how it affects anxiety, we first need to understand what anxiety is. Anxiety is an emotion of worry, nervousness and unease. Everyone gets a little anxiety sometimes, including myself. But some people have what is called an anxiety disorder where they get so much anxiety so much of the time that it affects their everyday life.
The problem is that science does not know what causes anxiety disorders, or exactly what emotions are for that matter. We do know that emotions are associated with the brain and that marijuana’s active ingredients (cannabinoids) interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, and that’s about all we know for sure! THAT’S IT! The rest of these convincing studies are surveys of people who admit to consuming correlated to their health outcomes. It’s all statistical correlation at best and not a scientifically validated causation at all. So we really don’t know the answer because we don’t even have the knowledge to ask the question precisely enough to conduct an experiment.
I do know that in my own experience, my anxiety level after consuming cannabis was greatly reduced when they legalized in my home state of Colorado, and I’d be hella-anxious if I were smoking a joint in Nebraska, Kansas or Utah today. So, if we want to decrease anxiety, we really should legalize and give people a safe space to get high and relax.