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Chill, Bro: How to Calm Your Anxiety With Weed

No, bong rips aren’t a replacement therapy — sorry

If you’re prone to anxiety, you’ve probably heard that weed can help. But it’s not as simple as lighting up a joint and smoking your worries away. No, you’ll have to take a more calculated approach, because as with any medicine, doses, categories and individual differences matter. 

Here’s everything you need to know about using cannabis to chill, including the best strains for anxiety and why taking the time to savor your weed is so important.

Can weed really help me chill? I’m pretty anxious.

Surveys, studies and anecdotal reports all suggest that weed can reduce anxiety by producing an increased sense of calm, improved relaxation and better sleep. As one report explains, that’s probably because the brain’s endocannabinoid system is “expressed in all brain regions that are important for the processing of anxiety, fear and stress.” So, ingesting cannabinoids reinforces that system as a “regulatory buffer” for how you react to intense emotions. “I use cannabis daily for the anxiety and PTSD I received while being in the Marines,” says award-winning budtender Angel Scott. “Cannabis saved my life.”

Wow. Where do I start?

First of all, it’s important to understand that CBD appears to reduce anxiety at all doses, whereas THC seems to increase anxiety at high doses. Therefore, cannabis coach Andrea Meharg recommends experimenting with a “consistent, daily dose of CBD oil or tincture,” which can be dropped under your tongue (Scott says CBD gummies are good, too). That said, you may find that joints, vape pens or bong rips of a CBD-dominant strain do a better job of keeping you calm, so don’t be afraid to try new things.

Keep in mind that it may take some time for the CBD to help: Meharg notes that many people need around a month to find the right dose for their anxiety — 20 to 40 milligrams a day is a good starting point — so try your best to be patient. And if you find that a little THC helps too, go for it, dog.

What are the best strains for anxiety?

If you’re sticking with CBD, Harlequin and Cannatonic are stoner favorites. But if you’re open to strains with THC, Scott recommends indicas like Wedding Cake, Blackberry Kush and Master Kush, all of which are known for relaxing the body without sending your mind spiraling. Once you start trying new strains, Budtender Awards nominee Matt Trinidad suggests keeping a journal of the terpenes in strains you like, since they’re responsible for much of the effects — that way, you can safely branch out to similar strains by looking at their terpenes. “Limonene, caryophyllene and myrcene are my heroes for anxiety,” he says.

If you enjoy one of the indicas listed above but wish it didn’t send you straight to the couch, Graham Farrar, president of Glass House Farms, says grinding it up with a CBD strain can boost its anxiety-busting abilities and produce a mellower high.

That said, strain hunting can be painfully confusing, since the genetics of one strain can differ from cultivator to cultivator. “The ‘Blue Dream’ type of cannabis that you can get where you live may be drastically different from what we call ‘Blue Dream’ here,” says Meharg. So rather than getting too caught up in specific strains, she suggests finding a trustworthy dispensary near you and having one of their seasoned budtenders help you out.

Is there anything I can do to help my weed work?

Make a mindful moment out of it. For example, when Trinidad enjoys weed, he always asks himself, “What are the sweet or fruity notes that I’m tasting or smelling in this strain? What savory notes are there? Before you know it, my anxiety is gone, and my mind is clear.”

What if I’m feeling anxious after smoking weed?

Taking some CBD, biting into a lemon (seriously) and taking a nap are all documented ways to ground yourself if you’re feeling anxious and paranoid.

So will weed make my anxiety disappear?

Probably not all by itself. “It’s only one tool in the toolkit, and I’m a big believer in a wrap-around approach,” says Meharg. “I take cannabis for my depression, but I still need to exercise, see my counselor and take my antidepressants.”

It’s possible, though, that weed will help kick-start that journey. Or as Meharg puts it, “For me, cannabis was the gateway drug to better mental and physical health.”

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