I have long since been an advocate for medical cannabis to help cure what ails you. The use of CBD for anxiety relief, for instance. Or, using THC to help alleviate depression.
Whether as a substitute for traditional medicine or in addition to it, cannabis helps millions of people around the globe.
Recently, I used CBD for acute anxiety relief, and it went horribly wrong. I’m still trying to figure out what the <bleep> went wrong!
Why I Initially Chose CBD for Anxiety Relief
I started using cannabis to treat mental illness alongside my prescribed medication—an SSRI—several years ago when I entered perimenopause. Increased anxiety is often a symptom of perimenopause. Nobody ever told me that. Mood swings and hot flashes? Sure. But anxiety? No. Not even my doctor.
At the time, my doctor chose to deal with my fluctuating anxiety by changing my prescription altogether. This resulted in a shit-storm of side effects ranging from the dreaded brain zaps to exacerbated tinnitus and elevated blood pressure. I wrote it about here.
I learned that many people were using cannabis for—among other things—relief from symptoms of mental illness. Given I suffer(ed) from anxiety and depression, I decided to give it a try and had great success. Until I didn’t.
The Lead-Up to Reintroducing CBD
In August 2021, after months of having slowly ceased all medications, supplements, and cannabis use—I wanted to do a full-body reset—I had a massive collapse. I don’t use those words lightly. I suffered days and nights filled with wave after wave of panic attacks. For weeks, I was in a perpetual fight-or-flight loop. It got so bad one night that I even went to the emergency room. You can read the whole story here.
By mid-September, I was in a precarious state of recovery. The panic attacks had mainly subsided, but fluctuating anxiety was still a huge problem.
I had started therapy and was waiting for my SSRI to kick in—the same SSRI I had weaned myself off of six months prior. Because my doctor didn’t want to prescribe any additional medication quite yet, I thought that I could reintroduce CBD to help bridge the gap.
Before using CBD to relieve my anxiety, I consulted with my medical cannabis clinic. They agreed that CBD could help and advised me to start low and go slow—the cannabis-use mantra. They reminded me of potential side effects—headache, drowsiness, diarrhea, etc.—that could last for a few days.
I had taken as much as 50mg of CBD a day in the past. Keeping low and slow in mind, I decided to start at 20% of that dose. I ordered 10mg gel caps from my favorite provider—very credible—and waited for them to arrive.
When Using CBD Went Horribly Wrong
On average, ingested cannabis products take about 90 minutes before any effects are felt. In my case, it was around that 90-minute mark on that first day that I got a mild headache. I expected it and wasn’t too concerned. Anxiety feeds on fear and uncertainty, but I was confident in CBD given my past experience.
The next day, I took CBD again, and again, I got a headache after about 90 minutes. This time the headache was stronger and was accompanied by some anxiety. Given I was already suffering from fluctuating anxiety throughout the day, I pushed through. I woke up several times that night, my anxiety mounting.
On the third day of taking CBD for anxiety relief, I got a pounding headache and became agitated, restless, and fearful. I could feel the anxiety climbing higher and higher. I woke in the middle of the night in full fight-or-flight mode with intrusive thoughts speeding through my psyche: I’m better off dead. I can’t take it anymore. How many pills would it take to end this nightmare?
The panic was scary. But the kinds of thoughts I had were terrifying!
Given I had changed nothing else in my treatment, the only rational conclusion was that the CBD wreaked havoc on my fragile system. I ceased taking CBD after only 3 days and haven’t taken it again since.
Can CBD Provide Anxiety Relief in the Future?
Not only did cannabis help me in the past, but I enjoyed it. Having ceased drinking alcohol several years ago, along with the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, THC was fun to consume. It definitely helped with my depression.
I don’t know why my body reacted to CBD the way it did this time. Maybe it was because I had only restarted my SSRI a few weeks prior. Maybe it was because I didn’t start low and slow enough. I’m sure I’ll never know why for sure.
I incorrectly assumed that my body could handle CBD as it had in the past for the treatment of anxiety. This time, that was unfortunately not the case.
I will continue to advocate for cannabis, though, because I really do believe that it can help. As for me, I may try cannabis again in the future, just not anytime soon.