Study: Low-Dose THC Can Relieve Stress, but Too Much May Do the Opposite

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The popular claim that cannabis relieves stress and helps one relax has just been confirmed in a new study.

However, don’t bogart that joint, my friend.

Researchers found that weed’s stress-relieving properties are most effective when micro-dosed. But too much can have the opposite effect.

The study was done by a group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Chicago.

This is how they did the study:

Forty-two healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 40, all of whom had prior experience with weed, were split into three groups and given capsules with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in them.

Group one, the low-dose group, received a capsule with 7.5 milligrams of THC; the moderate-dose group got 12.5 milligrams; and the placebo group got none.

Neither participants, nor investigators, knew who was in each group.

Lead researcher, Emma Childs, from the UIC Department of Psychiatry, noted the difficulty in equating ingested cannabis to smoked cannabis, but said the doses used in the study produced effects that were equivalent to a few puffs of a joint.

She also explained that they didn’t include larger doses so as to avoid potential adverse or cardiovascular effects.

The Method:

In the two 4-hour sessions, five days apart. each participant took two THC capsules at each session, waited for it to enter their bloodstream, then were interviewed by lab assistants who purposely offered no positive verbal or body language feedback. Then, participants were asked to do a challenging math task, which Childs called “very reliably stress-inducing.”

On their second visit, participants talked about their favorite movie or book for five minutes, then were asked to play solitaire for five minutes.

During and after these tasks, participants assessed their own stress levels and feelings. Their heart rates, blood pressures and levels of cortisol (a key stress hormone) were monitored and measured at intervals.

The Results:

As predicted, the low-dose group reported less stress after the psychosocial test than those given the placebo. Their stress levels also dropped faster after the test.

The moderate-dose group reported more negative moods before and during the tasks. They were more likely to rate the psychosocial tasks as “challenging” or even “threatening.”

“We found that THC at low doses reduced stress, while higher doses had the opposite effect, underscoring the importance of dose when it comes to THC and its effects,” Childs told the UIC News Center.

We need more research.

“Studies like these… are extremely important, considering the widespread use of cannabis for both medical and non-medical purposes,” Childs explained. “Unfortunately, significant regulatory obstacles make it extremely difficult to conduct this type of research with the result that cannabis is now widely available for medical purposes with minimal scientific foundation.”

The study was published in the Journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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