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smoking weed with anxiety disorder

Will Smoking Weed Affect My Anxiety?

This article originally appeared on VICE U.K.

Weed and anxiety have always been entwined for me. My experience of getting high amounts to an unpleasantly increased heart rate, imagining that all my friends secretly think I’m a cunt and berating myself via a cacophony of second-person internal monologues. It took me a bizarrely long time to realize this was not something I enjoyed, but when I eventually did, learning to say no when passed a spliff became the greatest gift I ever gave myself.

Since I never enjoyed weed in the first place, giving it up wasn’t difficult. But many weed users experience a more conflicted relationship with the drug and their anxiety. Weed use can become a symptom, cure, and underlying condition all rolled into one. Using it might worsen your anxiety—in a larger sense—but allow you to feel better in the short-term. This creates a vicious circle in which you’re using a substance to alleviate the symptoms it causes.

WHAT DO USERS THINK?

Amy, 27, a former weed smoker who lives with anxiety, says, “Smoking weed felt like it was positively contributing to my life at the time—it made me less anxious and more at ease about doing things. But actually it was completely destructive because, without it, I would be a complete panicked mess. If I hadn’t used weed, I would have recovered from my severe anxiety period much quicker. Instead, it took me two-and-a-half years.”

It can be difficult to tell whether weed use causes anxiety, or simply exacerbates what was there already. Chris, 22, who developed a panic disorder in his teens after smoking weed habitually, says, “In hindsight, I had always been an overthinking teenager—it’s just how my mind works, and I was able to cope with that in the long-term. Smoking weed definitely made that overthinking worse, though, and more difficult to control. It made me more irrational and irritable.”

The stronger the cannabis you're smoking, the more likely you are to experience adverse side effects.