A panic attack is the rapid onset of extreme fear or discomfort. The sensation hits its peak within a few minutes and includes a minimum of four of the following symptoms:
- Increased heart rate or palpitations
- A feeling of choking
- Feeling very hot or having chills
- Tingling or numbing sensations
- Fear of losing control
- A fear of dying
- Discomfort or pain in the chest
- Shaking or trembling
- Abdominal distress or nausea
The symptoms are similar to feeling incredibly anxious. However, a panic attack is different because it is more intense. Typically, the symptoms of a panic attack reach their zenith within 10 minutes. In most cases, they tend to subside soon afterward.
One of the most troubling aspects of panic attacks is that they can suddenly hit a person during a relative state of calm.
Occasionally, an individual could suffer a panic attack amid other psychological disorders. For example, if someone has a social anxiety disorder, they could experience a panic attack right before giving a speech to a large audience.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, up to 2.7% of American adults have a panic attack during any given year. Moreover, an estimated 4.7% of Americans suffer from panic disorder at some point during their lives.
Can Marijuana Help with Panic Attacks?
There is a school of thought that suggests high-THC marijuana strains could worsen the symptoms of panic disorder. Ryan Vandrey of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine spoke about the issue. He said that panic attacks from cannabis happen due to the direct effects of the drug in the brain or on the body.
Vandrey asserts that marijuana can modulate neurotransmitters in parts of the brain that control anxiety. It can also elevate the heart rate. This combination may result in a feeling of heightened panic.
What research on cannabis and panic attacks does suggest is that adverse symptoms are dose-related. Higher doses of potent cannabis are more likely to result in panic attacks than are low to moderate doses of medium-strength cultivars. Panic attacks related to cannabis are also more likely to happen in individuals who already suffer from anxiety.
The Best Cannabis Strains for Panic Attacks
While there is evidence suggesting that high-THC cannabis can promote the onset of panic and anxiety, there is also evidence that CBD, a prominent cannabinoid in hemp and some cannabis strains, can work to mollify it.
In a Current Neuropharmacology article titled “Evidences for the Anti-Panic Actions of Cannabidiol,” researchers conclude that CBD may be “a promising drug for the treatment of PD (Panic Disorder).” However, the authors of the study emphasize that clinical trials involving diagnosed PD patients will be needed to “clarify the specific mechanism of action of CBD … [as well as] the safe and ideal therapeutic doses of [the] compound [for PD].”
Fortunately, at the time of writing, there is an active clinical trial of 50 participants titled “Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: An 8-Week Pilot Study.” Results of the randomized and placebo-controlled study, which are set to be published late in the coming year, aim to identify an efficient dose of cannabidiol (in the form of CBD oil capsules) for the treatment of anxiety disorders like PD.
That being said, it’s important for readers to remember that the following picks on the best cannabis strains for panic disorder are suggestions only based on their high CBD content. There is no clinical information suggesting that any of the following strains will treat or cure panic disorder, or any form of anxiety disorder.
1 – Ringo’s Gift
As a genetic cross between Harle-Tsu (see below) and ACDC, Ringo’s Gift offers an extraordinary cannabinoid profile that often boasts CBD-to-THC levels in excess of 20:1. This means that users can expect a lot in terms of anxiety relief and very little in terms of mind-altering or intoxicating effects.
2 – Stephen Hawking Kush
Given the strain’s relative obscurity, users may find it tough to come across a batch of authentic Stephen Hawking Kush. For those who do, however, the strain’s indica-dominant genetics can provide an immensely relaxing body high with very little (thanks to high CBD content) in the way of intoxicating effects.
SHK is a wonderful option for those that may have developed a tolerance to cannabis but may be trying to get away from high-THC phenotypes.
3 – Harle-Tsu
One of the most iconic high-CBD strains out there, Harle-Tsu, can be easily found in most any high-end marijuana dispensary in the western USA. The strain boasts genetics from Harlequin and Sour Tsunami, meaning users can expect profound levels of mental sedation with next to no THC-induced adverse side effects.
4 – Sour Tsunami
As a parent strain for several prominent high-CBD cultivars (including Harle-Tsu mentioned above), Sour Tsunami has become an industry staple when it comes to CBD-centric genetics.
This may be surprising, however, considering the strain is a genetic cross between NYC Diesel and Sour Diesel (a strain that is traditionally known for its potent high). With Sour Tsunami, users can expect a mild sativa-dominant high combined with calming yet controllable cerebral effects.
5 – Cannatonic
As possibly the most famous high-CBD cannabis strain on the market, no list of CBD-dominant strains would be complete without mention of Cannatonic. The only downside of this popular medicinal cultivar is that CBD to THC ratios can vary largely from batch to batch.
While some strains boast as much as a 5:1 CBD to THC profile, others are closer to a 1:1 ratio. Regardless, Cannatonic could be a fantastic option to try for anyone seeking relief from panic attacks or panic disorder.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana Strains for Panic Disorders
There is reliable academic research suggesting the benefits of cannabis (specifically CBD) for panic disorder and other anxiety-related conditions. However, the completion of placebo-controlled clinical trials will be necessary to determine an effective dose range for CBD-based anxiety and panic treatment.
Our list of the top-5 best strains for panic attacks is based on evidence that CBD, not THC, is beneficial in terms of helping mollify panic disorder.
High amounts of THC, in fact, are known to galvanize anxiety-induced moments of panic. With that said, it is important to remind readers that none of the above strains are clinically proven to treat or cure panic attacks. Whenever possible, speak with your doctor about an optimal approach to cannabis-based therapy.