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Marijuana’s medicinal purposes are undeniable and recognized by patients, medical professionals, and recreational users alike. The physical benefits are endless: instant pain relief, reduced nausea, and alleviated headaches are only some of what our favorite plant has to offer. However, debate arises when we start talking about its cognitive benefits.
Depending on the user, marijuana can either alleviate anxiety or make anxiety worse—literally opposite ends of the spectrum. Sativa and indica are the two major categories of cannabis plants, and are also mixed together to create hybrid strains. Sativa strains have a cognitive effect, providing an energetic, focused, mental high, while indica strains are known for their physical effects. Think “indica” means “in da couch.” Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the chemical compound found in cannabis that has inherent qualities to treat anxiety. CBD does not make you “feel” high, but has been found to have all kinds of medical benefits. Tetrahydrocannibinol, or THC, on the other hand, provides all of the psychedelic and some physical effects of marijuana, but has a tendency to induce anxiety in users, especially those who already struggle with the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, making them the most common mental illness in the country. Those of us who choose to medicate with marijuana should know how to find the appropriate dosage. As we all know, there are seemingly infinite strains with more breeds coming to fruition all the time. However, as a general rule of thumb, scientists (and stoners) have agreed that high THC, low CBD strains are the worst about inducing paranoia symptoms, and the following are the strains to avoid if you have anxiety.
Green Crack has earned its controversial name for a reason. Entirely made up of cannabis, the energizing effects of the strain are unparalleled by others, and keep people coming back for more. It provides users with a high that allows them to go about daily activities with a euphoric feeling and enhanced productivity. Likewise, it is a true sativa, and its THC content falls in at 19 percent with only 0.14 percent CBD. This chemical makeup provides it with the ability to enhance focus, but at the price of potentially heightened anxiety.
With a THC level that is usually around 17 percent, Serious 6 is another sativa that gives users an aggressively productive high. Created by Serious Seeds, this strain generates enhanced cognitive effects of the high THC level. Users with anxiety will respond with a potentially unpleasant experience, as the astute focus leaves people with the disorder focused on their worries. This is definitely a strain to avoid if you have anxiety, as users with a history of anxiety have reported paranoia and a generally unpleasant experience.
Jack the Ripper
This sativa prominent hybrid is another energizing strain that you should definitely avoid if you have anxiety. Also known as JTR, this strain is extremely potent because it typically has an off-the-charts THC content, coming in at around 20 percent. The breeder Subcool created Jack the Ripper by accident, as he intended on creating a different hybrid. However, the intense, lemony taste and enhanced sense of urgency upon taking a hit, in conjunction with the physical effects of the THC, has enabled this strain to become a fan favorite. On the flip side, this intensity has a tendency to leave users disoriented and paranoid, and should be avoided by those with anxiety at all costs.
Since Jack the Ripper made this list, it is only appropriate to find one of its parents, Jack Herer, reining true as an anxiety-inducing strain. Jack Herer was created in the 90s by Dutch growers overseas and is recognized for its medicinal purposes. Being one of the more respected and well-known strains, it's unfortunate that its heightened creative effects come with heightened worries and stress. This strain is not particularly known for creating anxiety in people who do not have a disorder; instead its reviews have primarily highlighted its tendency to make symptoms worse.
Girl Scout Cookies
Girl Scout Cookies is a strain that has been popularized recently by the well-known rapper Wiz Khalifa, and it is a favorite amongst patients and recreational users alike. Unlike most of the strains on this list, this is an indica-dominant hybrid, but the high that comes with smoking it is rather spacey. What earned it a spot on here, however, is the sativa-like head high that comes from its parent, Durban Poison. This head rush, in conjunction with its physically relaxing effects, creates the perfect storm for someone who suffers from panicked thoughts and would prefer feeling in control. It also has the self-reflecting properties of your traditional high-THC strain, and contemplating the meaning of life is not quite as fun for someone who is interested in escaping anxious thoughts.
Since the child of Durban Poison falls just above on this list, it is only appropriate that we call out the infiltrator of the problem. The Cannnabist lists Durban Poison as “one of the rare unadulterated sativas on the market.” Its citrusy aroma and impressive reputation make it a highly sought after strain for people who value strains that are pure, and not products of complicated cross-breeding like many are today. However, Durban Poison leaves you with a ridiculously electric high, much like that of Adderall, and is absolutely a strain you should avoid if you suffer from anxiety.
Any “highly potent” strain of marijuana is likely going to be one that has potential anxiety-inducing effects by our criteria, and TrainWreck is another that you should avoid if you suffer from anxiety. Its genetics consist of both sativa and indica components, but it is definitely a sativa-dominant hybrid. The THC levels present are high, and this intense head rush is what patients who suffer from anxiety disorders can often time find unpleasant. Some patients suffering from anxiety, however, have reviewed this strain positively. This illustrates an important point, though, as cognitive effects are highly dependent on the individual.
Willie Nelson tried this strain once and purchased the entirety of the first crop. As we all would have expected, it is definitely a heavy hitter. Coming in at 60 percent sativa and a whopping 22 percent THC content, this is NOT a strain that is for the faint of heart, especially the anxious. It has been known to increase creativity and give its users energy; the benefits are perfect for the seasoned singer, but maybe not for everyone. Primarily used to treat nausea, this strain does provide euphoric effects but the high THC is likely to make anxiety symptoms worse for people who already suffer from the disorder.
Alaskan Thunderfuck (ATF for short) hails from the Mantuska Valley in Alaska. Its origin is a mystery, but its mental effects are heightened to the point of an impressively psychedelic head high. It is renowned in the weed community for its ability to generate a ridiculous head rush, with the high being generally uplifting in nature. Patients who use ATF are prone to experiencing paranoia, due to its deep, thought-provoking high. And as we mentioned earlier, those of us seeking to escape our troublesome thoughts are not as interested in being introspective.
Last but not least, the final strain you should avoid if you have anxiety is OCD. Named for a cognitive disorder itself, it should be clear that this strain is not for someone who has any existing anxiety issues. OCD is for the true sativa lover, and it generates an aggressively active high that makes users want to get up and clean the entire house. Being a rare strain, it is an easy one to avoid, but from all reviews, this should be first and foremost on your list to avoid if anxiety is what you are trying to treat and not induce.