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Anxiety and Panic Disorder

What is Anxiety Disorder?
Worry and stress in life is an every day occurrence. Anxiety Disorder is when worry is
excessive and ongoing, and impedes normal functions. Associated symptoms may
include trouble falling asleep, muscle tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating,
restlessness, shortness of breath, pounding heartbeat, and fatigue.
What is Panic Disorder?
Panic Disorder refers to specific episodes of intense fear or anxiety with associated
symptoms that occur suddenly. Some of these symptoms include heart racing, chest pain,
shortness of breath, a feeling of choking, dizziness, nausea, cramping, sweating, tingling
in the hands and feet, and chills or hot flashes. These episodes can last from minutes to
hours. What triggers the panic attack may or may not always be obvious. Concurrent
medical conditions may include mitral valve prolapse, cardiac arrhythmias,
hyperthyroidism or seizures.
How does traditional medicine manage Anxiety and Panic Disorder
Traditional medicine promotes psychotherapy, including the more popular and recently
developed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Medication is also used in indicated cases.
Typical pharmaceuticals include anti-anxiety medicines such as benzodiazepenes
(Valium, Xanax, Ativan, or Klonopin) or serotonin agonists (Proxac, Zoloft, Welbutrin,
Effexor, or Buspar). Anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals tend to build tolerance quickly as two
weeks and are best used as a short term solution. Serotonin agonists are better for longer
term solutions.
Medical Marijuana and Anxiety or Panic Disorder
There are as many varied responses to using marijuana for anxiety as there are solutions.
A successful treatment for Anxiety or Panic Disorder seems to be more dependent on the
individual than the therapy. In fact, some patients report marijuana causing anxiety
rather than alleviating it. That being said, the fact remains that among MediCann
patients, Anxiety is the fourth most common reason for medical marijuana use and
Insomnia (often the result of anxiety) is third. The 1999 Institute of Medicine report on
Marijuana and Medicine repeatedly acknowledges the anti-anxiety affects of marijuana.
The anxiety relieving mechanism of marijuana is still unclear and needs further steady.
What is clear is that the marijuana relieves some symptoms that are caused by Anxiety or
Panic Disorder. Marijuana relieves insomnia and muscle tensions. The mood elevating
euphoria of marijuana may relieve a concurrent depression. Studies indicate that it is the
CBD (cannabidiol) in marijuana and not the THC has anti-anxiety properties.¹ ²
Consequently, teas or preparations with higher leaf content would have a better anti-
anxiety effect.

Alternative Therapies
There are many alternative or complementary approaches to anxiety. As with all medical
conditions, it is important that you work with your primary health provider to establish an
approach to resolving the condition that causes anxiety. A good nutritional assessment is
a good way to begin investigating alternatives. Decrease caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants relieve the more common external sources of anxiety. Supplement such as GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) and 5-HTP (a pre-serotonin, amino acid) may help with sleep and mood, respectively. Popular herbal relaxants other than marijuana often used for anxiety are Kava kava, Passion flower, and Oat seed. Homeopathy promotes a medication called Calms forte. Other therapies used are Biofeedback, Acupuncture, Relaxation Therapy, Expressive Dance an Art Therapy, Massage Therapy, Meditation, and Aromatherapy. ¹Zuardi A.W., I. Shirakawa, E. Finkelfarb and I.G. Karniol, 1982. Action of cannabidiol on the anxiety and other effects produced by delta-9-THC in normal subjects. Psychopharmacology 76: 245-250. ²Guimarães, F. S., 1990. Anti-anxiety effect of cannabidiol in the elevated plus-maze. Psychopharmacology 100(4)


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The quarterly newsletter of the American Medical Writers Association—Delaware Valley Chapter Mixer at the Mutter Museum: • Tuesday, September 17 —“Mixer September 17 J oin us on Tuesday, September 17 for a Mixer/Networking Meeting • Wednesday, December 4 — at the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Located in Center City, Philadelphia, the Mutter M

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