Can Marijuana Help Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

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If you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you may have attempted many things to try and soothe your anxiety. From coloring books for adults to mindful meditation, there are lots of constructive ways to manage your fears and stress. However, for many people with GAD, these techniques are not enough. Instead, they try to self-medicate to manage their symptoms. One common method that is growing in popularity is using marijuana to treat anxiety.

While some people have claimed success, using marijuana to treat your illness has potential risks.

Anxiety and Marijuana

With GAD or any other mental illness, you may become frustrated with your treatments or a lack of progress in therapy. It can be tempting to pursue a method of managing anxiety with immediate results, such as through drinking alcohol or using marijuana. Using substances like these to treat yourself is known as ​self-medicating.

While you may feel relief in the moment, the effects of marijuana are short-lived and you may become dependent on using it whenever you feel anxious. If you do not practice coping skills or techniques, you may come to completely rely on marijuana and be less able to manage GAD without it.

Risks of Marijuana

Self-medicating with marijuana can sabotage your recovery and threaten any progress you have made to date in therapy. Using marijuana as a crutch keeps you from learning how to constructively manage your symptoms.

In addition, while many people claim marijuana is safe, it has the potential to cause brain damage if used for the long-term. It has been linked to short and long term memory loss and reducing your abilities to recall important information. While you may find marijuana to be effective in the moment, over the long-term, studies have shown that marijuana use can actually worsen anxiety and panic attacks.

There are also the additional potential career and legal issues. If you are looking for a new job, you may be asked to pass a drug test. If you are self-medicating with marijuana, that means you'll be unable to pass. If you currently do have a job, marijuana may harm your job performance and put your current role at risk. Finally, if you are caught with marijuana without a valid prescription for medical marijuana in those states where it is allowed, you can be arrested and charged.

When coping with GAD, adding the pressure and paranoia of being found out or caught can be overwhelming and harmful to your health.

Alternatives to Marijuana

Instead of self-medicating, look for healthy and constructive ways to manage GAD. If you have not already, seek out a therapist specializing in anxiety disorders. They can help you work through your fears and identify comprehensive strategies to manage your symptoms.

If you feel that therapy isn't effective enough and your anxiety is hindering your quality of life, share that with your therapist.

Some people with GAD do very well on prescription medications for anxiety. They can take a few weeks to work effectively, but they provide long-lasting, steady results to manage the condition.


Patel, S., and Ramikie, T. "Marijuana's Anxiety Relief Effects: Receptors Found in Emotional Hub of Brain." Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2014.

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