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The role of cannabis in treating anxiety

an update

Van Ameringen, Michaela,b; Zhang, Jasmineb; Patterson, Betha,b; Turna, Jasmineb,c,d

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2020 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 1–7
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000566
MOOD AND ANXIETY DISORDERS: Edited by Sidney H. Kennedy and Hans-Ulrich Wittchen

Purpose of review Cannabis use for medical purposes has become increasingly common, including as treatment for mental health disorders such as anxiety. Unfortunately, the evidence examining its use in mental health has been slow to evolve, but is emerging. Given the widespread use of cannabis, it is important for both clinicians and those who suffer with anxiety to understand the effects of cannabis on symptoms of anxiety. In this review, we present recent, available evidence from animal models, clinical trials, and survey studies and evaluate the contribution of these studies to the current understanding of the role of cannabis in treating anxiety.

Recent findings In reviewing recent evidence, we observed significant inconsistencies across findings from preclinical studies. Large-scale surveys suggest that cannabis may be effective in reducing anxiety, however, these results stand in contrast to equivocal findings from clinical trials.

Summary The literature evaluating the efficacy of cannabis in anxiety disorders is in its infancy. The survey data is generally positive. Although, while some animal studies posit cannabis constituents to have anxiolytic effects, others suggest the opposite or null results. Few new clinical trials have been conducted recently, and the extant trials have significant flaws in methodology. Although anecdotal evidence from survey studies, and a small signal found in animal studies and single-dose clinical trials provide early support that cannabis may be effective for alleviating anxiety, ultimately, the current evidence is equivocal. More high-quality clinical trials must be published before sound conclusions regarding the efficacy of cannabis for treating anxiety can be drawn.

aDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University

bMacAnxiety Research Centre, McMaster University MacAnxiety Research Centre, McMaster University

cMichael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research

dPeter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, McMaster University & St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Correspondence to Michael Van Ameringen, 1057 Main St, W L02 Hamilton, ON L8S 1B7, Canada. Tel: +1 289 396 4242; fax: +1 289 396 0309; e-mail:

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