BY MARIE LODI
Stress is, unfortunately, a pretty universal experience. But it can manifest differently in each person, if it manifests at all. (Seriously, how lucky are those folks?) As people increasingly turn to cannabis for stress management, it’s important to know exactly how it can help, and how much of it is best to consume to truly quell (and not heighten) stress.
First up: there are different kinds of stress. Distress occurs when you’re experiencing something blatantly negative in your life, such as a health scare or a breakup. Eustress is a particularly interesting strain—it’s the kind of stress that has a positive connection, such as starting a new job or entering in a new relationship. Then, of course, there’s chronic stress, which includes everyday responsibilities and routines, like work, family commitments, and paying off student loans. We’re so used to being hamsters on the wheel of life, we usually don’t realize the effect chronic stress is having on us physically and mentally.
When it begins to reveal itself, stress can be mysterious. At first you might not realize that the splitting migraine you had the other night or the hair loss you’ve been experiencing for the past month could be directly related to it. Since stress is “invisible,” it can be easier for people to just ignore it. The problem is, being oblivious to stress can cause even more serious health problems in the long run, such as heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, depression, sleep issues, and more.
When addressing stress and its impact on health, it’s important to know the difference between stress and anxiety. These two terms are frequently referred to in the same context, due to having many of the same emotional and physical symptoms, but are not the same at all. “Anxiety is an illness of fear and discomfort that is not situational; in other words, anxiety is irrational and unprovoked,” Dr. Jordan Tishler, MD, CEO of the Boston-based InhaleMD, says. “Stress, on the other hand, is specific to a situation, like giving a presentation at work.” Dr. Tishler points out that people who use cannabis to treat stress report using much higher doses, which can be harmful. “Stress is always better treated by modifying the situation, rather than relying on medical intervention,” Dr. Tishler explains. For example, he says practicing your presentation until it’s airtight would be the better approach.
Still, if you do want to use cannabis to relieve anxiety and tension that chronic stress can cause, the best thing to do is to opt for a low-dose approach. Since cannabis is biphasic and can have opposite results than desired depending on the amount ingested, it’s important to experiment with dosage. Go low and slow, consuming in smaller amounts, and waiting between additional doses. If you feel that it heightens your stress or causes you to feel anxious, a lesser dosage might be better the next time. Also, keep in mind that various delivery forms can produce different effects for each person, so a low-dose edible might work better in terms of stress relief than vaping, or vice versa.