Cannabis and Stress Management
Stress has a great impact on our health. It has been estimated that, “Stress is the most common cause of ill health in our society, probably underlying as many as 70% of all visits to family doctors.” What is stress and what can we do about it? Stress has historically been defined as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” To meet this demand, we gear up with a fight-or-flight response. This involves a surge in the functioning of the sympathetic nervous system and a decrease in the parasympathetic response. Our bodies increase their production of adrenaline, a stimulating neurotransmitter, which leads to an increase in cortisol, a stimulating hormone. The changes include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure (to get more blood to the muscles, brain and heart), faster breathing (to take in more oxygen), tensing of muscles (preparation for action), increased mental alertness and sensitivity of sense organs (to assess the situation and act quickly), increased blood flow to the brain, heart and muscles (the organs that are most important in dealing with danger) and less blood to the skin, digestive tract, kidneys and liver (where it is least needed in times of crisis). In addition, there is an increase in blood sugar, fats and cholesterol (for extra energy) and a rise in platelets and blood clotting factors (to prevent hemorrhage in case of injury). Once the stress ends, our system tries to restore balance and return to normal functioning. However, if stress is chronic, restoration cannot occur, and instead of feeling energized, one can feel fatigued.
Some of the disorders associated with stress are: Anxiety, High blood pressure, Headaches, Depression, Weakened Immune System, Sleeplessness, Impotence, Headaches , Diarrhea, Change in Appetite, and Fatigue. Cannabis is well suited to treat many of the symptoms of stress. If we look at the list of disorders above, we can see that cannabis can be an effective tool for the treatment of almost all of them. The active components of marijuana, cannabinoids, affect many biological processes including appetite regulation, pain (including headaches), anxiety, mood, sleep and blood pressure.
The causes of stress are identified as “stressors” or “triggers.” In these difficult economic times we are faced with many stressors, such as loss of income, loss of jobs, perhaps having to move or stop one’s education. It is essential now, even more so than in easier times, to learn how to handle stress – this may also be termed, stress management.
The ABC’s of stress management have to do with key concepts.
- Alter, avoid or accept the stressor
- Behavioral modification
- Change-change your behavior, change your thinking, change your lifestyle choices and/or change the situations you are in.
If you can’t avoid stress then you need to manage it. The means to manage stress is long and multi-faceted. These are –
1) Drugs that help deal with Stress
Stress is often accompanied by anxiety and insomnia, so drugs used to treat these disorders are often prescribed. (See previous MediCann Newsletters for a review of these conditions). Anti-anxiety drugs decrease arousal and relax the body by reducing tension in the muscles. The most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drugs belong to the family benzodiazepines.
Long-term stress is often accompanied by high blood pressure. Beta-blockers are drugs that block receptors in the heart, which are stimulated by noradrenaline. In this way, they decrease sympathetic activity and lower blood pressure.
2) Psychological and Relaxation Therapies
These can include counseling, biofeedback, hypnosis and meditation. Many lifestyle changes and relaxation therapies that help are given below.
Go for a walk.
Spend time in nature.
Call a good friend.
Sweat out tension with a good workout.
Write in your journal.
Take a long bath.
Watch a comedy.
Savor a warm cup of tea.
Play with a pet.
Work in your garden.
Get a massage.
Curl up with a good book.
Listen to music.
3) Herbs and Supplements to help deal with stress
Early phase, when you are overstimulated
Licorice root, Kava Kava, Rhodiola, Phosphatydylserine.
Late phase, when you are fatigued
Licorice root, Ginseng, DHEA, L-Tyrosine.
The important thing to consider is which of the many symptoms of stress do you have? Are you in the early – overstimulated, jittery phase and need to calm down, or are you in a later, more fatigued phase and need a pick-up? Different strains of cannabis are more effective for calming, just as different herbs may be used for calming, while others may be used for restoration and improving energy. One thing that is universal for all stages of stress is to relax, try meditation, maintain your health, eat healthy, get a good night’s rest and stay positive.