Marijuana and Panic AttacksCredit: Photo by WahoogaCredit: Photo by Wahooga

Marijuana use is a subject of confusion for many people. In some countries, it’s legal while in others it’s a banned substance. It’s sometimes used to treat chronic illnesses like cancer, AIDS and other sicknesses that come along with chronic pain. In fact, looking back, marijuana was historically used by many native tribes as a relaxation drug. So why is there a strong advocacy against its use Today? Well, today marijuana and panic attacks seem to almost go hand in hand and that is a big part of the reason why many health bodies and governments are against its use.

To understand better the changes to marijuana over the years that has made it become a banned substance in many places, we need to look at its history and then its effects on the brain, and how anxiety disorders and marijuana related problems started to happen. Let’s start by looking at how it has changed over the years.

Natural marijuana, what you would grow in your garden, is actually a drug that in its pure form has the same effect that you would get from having sex or eating a piece of chocolate. It goes to the pleasure centres in the brain and triggers relaxation and a feeling of mild euphoria, transforming one into a state where they can think more clearly. Some history says that Chinese men of old, whose wisdom has come down the generations, would sit together, smoke natural marijuana and then ponder over a matter until they found an answer to it. It had good uses back then.

The active chemical that causes this reaction is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Over the years though, as commercialism increased, people found out that by adding various other chemicals, marijuana would cause addiction and therefore trade would increase as addicts would keep coming back for more. The only problem with this is that the chemicals that are added have negative effects on the brain. They work completely differently from the way natural marijuana would. There are now numerous compounds in street-bought marijuana and the problem is that it’s almost impossible to tell which they are; different people will add different chemicals, and the more addictive it gets, the more chemicals they put in. That’s why you will find so many anxiety disorders and marijuana related complications.

The effect of this kind of adulterated marijuana on the brain brings us to the connection between marijuana and panic attacks. When one inhales marijuana, it moves quickly through the lungs to the blood stream and into the brain, targeting areas that have cannabinoid receptors. Some areas of the brain have more receptors than others and the ones that have the most are the ones responsible for pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. In some people though, the receptors will react in the opposite manner, making them get hallucinations, imagine that they are in danger, lose their breath and generally get panic attacks and marijuana related problems.

In fact, more than half of marijuana users will admit to a panic attack at least once in their lifetime. This happens because with continued ingestion of all the additional chemicals, the brain starts to change from its natural state. Where it would have felt pleasure and relaxation, it now starts to send messages of fear, feelings that are heightened and perceptions that are not real. The result, of course, is that since the user is on a high and has little control over their actions, their bodies will react to these messages and they will go off into some kind of spin which is basically a panic attack. Some people will in fact become violent and lash out.

Can Marijuana Directly Cause Panic Attacks?

As described earlier, yes, especially with continued use. If you are a user there is one thing that you MUST be aware of. The people who manufacture the marijuana that you buy keep on adding chemicals into it that make it addictive. The result is that you keep going back for more, and the more you take, the more you alter the natural state of your brain and your reactions. You will find that you cannot do without it and this means that the damage will continue on and on until you stop.

What If You Have Panic Attacks And Use Marijuana?

You are at great peril. This is one of the fastest ways to trigger an attack. Remember what causes your panic attacks in the first place; it’s your brain seeing things out of proportion. A small danger or even no danger at all is magnified and you go into “fight or flight” mode, but at the same time your muscles seize and you find that you almost cannot do anything about the perceived danger.

What marijuana does is alter your brain even further, and by great degrees, so that your panic attacks are more frequent. They don’t necessarily have to happen when you are smoking it; your brain cells and nerve function are permanently altered so you can get panic attacks anywhere and any time. You might find that you go as far as being suicidal—the combination of the perceived fear and the feelings of helplessness lead you to a point where you think it would be better to end it all.

Are You Helpless If You're Already An Addict?

Not at all. It first starts with your will to stop. No one enjoys getting panic attacks and if yours are connected to marijuana use, you should admit to yourself that you have a problem and then make a commitment to start working on it.

Your local hospital will definitely be of help. They usually have programs for people who are willing to kick addictions, so long as you stick with the plan they give you and stay strong. You can definitely beat your addiction and see your panic attacks and marijuana use reduce. In fact, you may be left with just a little of the panic attacks but you will work with a health practitioner to see that these completely go away.

It’s not an easy thing to do, to kick an addiction, but thousands and thousands of people have done it and you can too if you are willing to make a change.