Is Cannabis Effective at Relieving Mild, Everyday Stress?
Our modern world is full of minor stressors: traffic jams, the 24-hour news cycle, social media, a presentation at work. Anything that increases emotional or physical tension is a stressor. To maintain our health and wellbeing in the face of daily stress, we must develop effective stress management strategies.
Some people like to listen to calming music and drink lavender tea. Others prefer stress reduction techniques involving meditation or yoga. Other people like to counter bad stress with good stress by vigorously exercising, sweating in the sauna, or taking a cold shower. Others find the most benefit by just getting out of their head whether that is playing with pets, listening to upbeat music, or cleaning the house.
Many people have found that a purposeful dose of cannabis or CBD provides them with natural stress relief on demand. What does it look like to use cannabis or CBD to relieve stress?
It could be a college kid smoking a joint after a busy week of midterms, a drained sales rep buccally ingesting a CBD lozenge after a long workday or a mother who makes the most out of an afternoon without the kids by eating an edible and treating herself to a home facial.
Jointly can help you find out which cannabis or CBD products to add to your stress relief toolkit, but first, let’s review what is known about cannabis and stress.
Please note that while cannabis and CBD may be used in medical contexts, this article is about using cannabis and CBD to manage minor day-to-day stress and anxiety and is not about the treatment of any stress or anxiety disorder. Please consult with your licensed health care practitioner before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.
History of Weed as a Stress Reliever
Stress refers to “emotional pressure suffered by a human being or other animal.”
Given that humans have used cannabis since ancient times, it is likely that many ancient cultures knew of the stress-relieving effects of weed. However, there is not much in the historical record about using cannabis to relieve stress because the notion of stress did not really emerge in its modern form until the early 1900s.
While the historical record is limited, many people today believe that weed is a powerful natural stress reliever. According to a recent study, many Americans turned to cannabis during the pandemic to relieve stress and improve their mood. The most common reason they listed for using cannabis was “to relieve mental stress.”  So, is weed good for relieving minor stress and anxiety?
Is Cannabis an Effective Stress Reliever?
Many people find that exercise or social interaction is the most effective stress-reduction strategy. Social interaction reliably increases endocannabinoid levels, decreases ratings of stress, and produces positive emotions. Exercise also bolsters the body’s endocannabinoid levels, which produces the euphoric “runner’s high.” There are many reasons why these activities are so great at relieving stress, but an important aspect of both activities is that they increase endocannabinoid tone.
When you consume cannabis, your brain is flooded with exogenous cannabinoids that bind to the same receptors that endocannabinoids do, producing potent stress relief on demand.
Cannabis users generally report that using marijuana gives them “a feeling of euphoria accompanied by a decrease in anxiety and an increase in sociability,” all of which are likely to decrease the perception of stress. So, how effective is marijuana at relieving stress?
A recent study had cannabis users rate their self-perceived stress levels before and after consuming cannabis in the comfort of their own homes. Over 93% of recorded cannabis sessions resulted in significant stress relief. However, baseline stress levels did not decrease with marijuana use.
The Stress Response
In scientific studies, stress is “an alteration of homeostasis as a consequence of external or internal threats.” These threats could be anything from an upcoming event that causes mild anxiety, to jetlag, to a stressful social interaction.
When an organism is exposed to a stressful stimulus, “immediate and protracted neuroendocrine responses with protective effects” occur involving the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
This process triggers the release of stress hormones and increases blood pressure and heart rate. Essentially, the body produces an adaptive, defensive response to stress. The endocannabinoid system (eCB) is present in the HPA axis and “plays a crucial role in regulating stress responses.”
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Modulate Stress?
The eCB plays a crucial role in modulating an organism’s emotional and physiological response to stress. Researchers have found that stress acutely affects endocannabinoid levels.
When you first experience stress, your body reduces levels of one type of endocannabinoid (AEA), which triggers the feeling of “stress.” At the same time, your body increases levels of another type of endocannabinoid (2-AG), which dampens your perception of pain and activates “memory that helps you avoid the situation and escape danger in the future.”
How Stress Disrupts the Endocannabinoid System
Scientists have repeatedly shown that chronic stress can alter endocannabinoid signaling. Over a long period of time, sustained overactivation of the stress pathways leads to the downregulation of CB1 receptors. Animals with reduced CB1 receptor availability display depressive and anxious behaviors.
For example, “chronic unpredictable stressors have been shown to impair 2-AG signaling.” It is thought that “chronic stress creates a hypocannabinergic state resulting in impaired fear extinction that can be alleviated by CB1R agonists.” THC is a CB1 receptor agonist, thus THC can temporarily alleviate the hypocannabinergic state caused by excessive stress.
CBD and Relieving Everyday Stress
One of the most popular ways to de-stress or stay stress-free is to use full-spectrum CBD or isolate CBD to relieve mild anxiety and stress. Please note that CBD is not an FDA-approved treatment for stress and anxiety disorders and we are discussing using CBD to improve your general wellbeing.
How does CBD relieve stress and anxiety? Research has shown that CBD can affect the serotonin system and the endocannabinoid system in ways that may promote stress relief. Animal studies indicate that CBD appears to have anxiety-reducing effects in a variety of experimental designs.
Is Weed Good for Stress Relief?
For many people, cannabis and CBD are highly effective stress relievers. If you want to see if cannabis or CBD can help you relieve everyday stress, use the Jointly app to track and optimize the 15 factors that can impact your experience.
These 15 factors include your dose, the environment in which you consume cannabis, who you are with when you ingest, how hydrated you are, the quality of your diet, how much sleep you got last night, and more.
Jointly is a new cannabis wellness app that teaches you how to achieve your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD. Our data indicate that Jointly works best when you report at least 10 cannabis sessions. If you only fill out a few reports and then stop, you won’t have enough data to start to see trends and improve how you consume cannabis.
When you use Jointly, you are rating how well a product helped you achieve your wellness goals. Over time, your average ratings should go up as you optimize how you consume cannabis and CBD.
How to Find Cannabis and CBD Products for Stress Relief
Jointly’s Product Finder feature allows you to look up legal, licensed cannabis and CBD products in your state based on your wellness goals. Select Relieve Everyday Stress and see how other users like you rated a product on a scale from 1-10, based on how well it helped them relieve their stress.
By reporting your cannabis and CBD consumption, you are contributing important data to the Jointly community and helping Jointly make better product and routine recommendations for you.