Dread Journal: Medical Marijuana May Help Your Anxiety, But Makes Mine Way Worse


Celia Kramer is a writer living with debilitating anxiety. In her weekly column, Celia will write about the horrible and hilarious world of fear, dread, paranoia, phobias, panic attacks, and trying to function as a halfway normal person. Some names and inconsequential details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people in her life.

In college, I lived with a guy named Aaron who was so crippled by his social anxiety that he barely left the house. Smoking made him feel normal, and opened him up to deal with his anxiety in a productive and therapeutic way. It also alleviated a lot of the physical symptoms of anxiety like nausea, headaches, and insomnia, which, unmanaged, further aggravated his anxiety, since we all know anxiety is a self perpetuating cycle. Smoking made all of that manageable, and it made him functional. And while it may not work for everyone, for Aaron and countless other people in my life, using marijuana as a treatment for anxiety has been unbelievably effective. It’s pretty much beyond question that it can help certain people manage their anxiety, and I am all for anything that helps with anxiety reduction. Regardless of where you stand on the legalization of marijuana for recreational or medical uses, I have seen firsthand how effective marijuana is at managing anxiety–for some people, it’s significantly more effective than any anti-anxiety medication and has fewer side effects. Except me. Smoking makes everything way, way worse.

I think of marijuana as a fun recreational drug and also an effective medical treatment, but for me, it is neither recreational nor curative. Smoking has the absolute opposite of the intended effect on me. Instead of producing a happy calm, it creates an internal panic attack run through a blender. I kept trying for years because I thought that maybe one day I’d have a breakthrough and then achieve normalcy.

I received drug education as a middle schooler from my mother, who had been somewhat of a drug connoisseur in the 70s and 80s. Now happily a square, she has a knack for convincing me that anything out of the ordinary could very well kill me. She told me:

“You can try any drug you want—I mean, I tried them all. You can do whatever grass* you wanna do. I used to smoke a ton of grass in college and grad school so I won’t tell you what to do. Of course, I wouldn’t touch the stuff nowadays. Nowadays it’s laced with God knows what, probably rat poison, for all I know. And you just hallucinate and it’s absolutely terrifying. Once I went to a Pink Floyd concert and I hallucinated that my boyfriend had a horse’s head instead of his head, although of course we had done some harder stuff than just grass. But you know, nowadays, grass is just mixed in with all that awful stuff so you just have no idea what you’re going to get. And you might, well, you probably will get really panicky and scared, I mean, I don’t know, I’m not saying you definitely will, but you probably will. But by all means, experiment, if that’s what you want to do. I certainly won’t discourage you.”

*I love that she says “grass.” Willie Nelson doesn’t even call it grass anymore.

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    • Tania

      I can’t do pot, either. I have a cousin (anxiety runs in the family) who uses it to make himself normal, and it works for him. And it’s super socially acceptable here (BC, Canada) too, so it works in every way.

    • Jade-Yue-Ryu

      It’s not just you honey. I’m allergic to weed and hemp. Any time I go near it I get massive headaches, dizzeness, nausea, and breathing trouble. And it doesn’t take much, the residual smoke on someone’s clothes can set it off.

    • ktree

      OMG me too! I am bipolar and so many people tell me to just smoke weed and I’ll be okay, and every year or two I will try it again just to see if I am not allergic anymore (logic) with bad results. Also, your mom is hilarious.

    • Muggle

      Marijuana seriously triggers my asthma, even though it apparently shouldn’t. I’ve never *smoked* weed but I’ve been around it. I’ve been told to try it for the most insane, fucked-up reasons (like “you’ll really get a creativity boost!” which being a writer I find HIGHLY insulting). “Try it for your anxiety/Tourettes/thunderstorm phobia/ADHD!” Uh, no. Meds work better, at least when I’m taking them, and they’re LEGAL.

      But I knew plenty of people who did weed and wound up being very, very anxious while they were high and for a bit after, and to my knowledge they didn’t have anxiety disorders. The common misconception (even among stoners, who you’d think would know better) is 1. that every drug works the same way for everyone, and 2. that there’s only one type of marijuana out on the market. 1. is just plain stupid and 2. is also just plain stupid, if anyone’s ever heard of Purple Haze and how much stronger that shit is than “regular” weed. Some varieties of weed do actually cause anxiety, some are supposed to do the opposite but it doesn’t work for everyone. Cocaine actually slows down people with ADHD and can help them focus, but you don’t see me doing lines of coke 3 times a day just so I can remember to do shit and stay focused.

      I swear stoners can be more annoying, pushy, and evangelical than Christian fundamentalists. Or maybe it’s because North Carolina is full of people who are both at the same time…

    • Slave

      vaporizing would alleviate a lot of the issues you are having. Also smoking a strain that has a high THC ratio to CBD ratio will usually make you more anxious. Instead use strains that are high in CBD.