A Beginner's Guide to Curbing Coronavirus Anxiety With Cannabis

DC's top budtenders dispense some invaluable advice for the novice toker

April 23, 2020 11:32 am
herbal alternatives strain dc
A canister of cannabis from DC dispensary Herbal Alternatives
Herbal Alternatives

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, studies have shown that Americans have been giving into their vices more than ever lately, and we get it. Amid weeks spent inside in social isolation, millions of jobs lost and a very depressing 24-hour news cycle, it would be unusual if you weren’t experiencing some form of anxiety, or at the very least, cabin fever.

While the importance of keeping good habits has been advocated by many mental health experts, the drastic uptick in sales of anything vice-related — from sex toys to alcohol — shows that we’re all in search of a little distraction. In fact, data from market research firm Nielsen suggests that U.S. alcohol sales spiked 55 percent in the week ending March 21, with online sales up an astounding 243 percent. In a survey by Alcohol.org, 1 in 3 respondents reported that they are likely to increase alcohol consumption in isolation.

Replacing sports-bar meetups with Zoom happy hours might offer some much-needed on-the-spot relief, but turning to booze in times of stress has major downsides, too. Downing too much alcohol can reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases, and besides that, it’s a depressant — temporarily boosting serotonin levels only to lower them in the long run, and causing or exacerbating depression as a result.

The bottom line is that an ounce or two on the rocks is fine, but increased alcohol use over days or weeks might suppress immune responses or lead to a greater susceptibility to pneumonia. 

Enter stage left: cannabis, a demonstrably safer alternative, with some added benefits.

While alcohol acts as a downer, weed has been shown to help ease anxiety, insomnia and physical aches and pain. While those who typically enjoy the stuff have gotten a bad rap as being lazy, giggly and insatiably hungry, cannabis is often medically prescribed to help manage nausea and weight loss, and can be used to treat glaucoma.

However, recent headlines have warned about the dangers of smoking cigarettes and weed as coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, and their habit can increase the risk of suffering more severe complications in the case that they contract the virus. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to indulge that require zero inhalation, from taking edibles to using medical-strength CBD oil. 

“So far, edibles don’t seem to do anything to the airways,” Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association told Refinery29. “They give you some of the same psychoactive effects as smoking, but they don’t put you at any increased risk if you get COVID-19. I would prefer all my patients use edibles instead of smoking.”

For those of you who have used some of the extra time at home to get experimental in the kitchen, here’s your cue. Use your newfound skills to whip up some quick cannabutter and crack open some new recipes, like this one for weed-infused ribeye with chimichurri. 

Don’t get too ahead of yourself though: first you have to know your strains. 

For combating anxiety 

For those with specific ailments, we encourage you to give a licensed dispensary a call, as they will be able to give you the best recommendation. What we can say is that those experiencing an uptick in daily anxiety might want to check out some indica or indica hybrids (a mix of strains that are dominantly indica). Built for relaxation, indica is perfect for both mental and muscle relaxation.

Not only are indica strains perfect for decompressing after a long day, they also have your back (literally) when it comes to muscle soreness, whether caused by a hard workout or sitting in the same chair all day long. Indica delivers a body high that gives you a heavy, relaxed feeling while increasing your dopamine levels. 

Local dispensary Herbal Alternatives recommends strains like Pincher’s Creek, which they describe as a “sweet strain with great, long-lasting effects” and say helps with mood elevation, giving bursts of energy throughout the day to help battle anxiety and depression. For evening use, they recommend a strain called Humble Pain. Perfect for fighting depression, it gives you an “almost euphoric and uplifting feeling.”

Catching some quality Zzzs

Need another reason to choose edibles above smoking? They actually take effect much more slowly, considering they first need to be digested and processed through the liver. This slow burn makes them effective at helping you stay asleep through the night. 

According to the experts at HelloMD, one of the best strains to put you to sleep is called Harlequin, which is actually a sativa-dominant hybrid. “Harlequin is high in CBD and is known for its ability to relieve pain, stress, anxiety and depression. Though it’s sativa-dominant, Harlequin is known to be a calming strain that helps people fall and stay asleep. It’s particularly good for people who have anxiety-driven insomnia, because it has very little to no psychoactivity.”

Other sleep-inducing favorites of theirs include Cookie Jar, a hybrid known for helping with headaches and providing full body relaxation effects, as well as the insomnia-countering White Widow, a balanced hybrid praised for its cerebral, relaxing qualities. 

When there’s work to get done

Trying to get out of bed on the weekend for an at-home workout? Suffering from the dreaded midday slump? This is where sativa, known for its energizing power, shines.

While everyone experiences the effects of cannabis differently, sativa is best used for revving up creativity, and can even sharpen focus, making it perfect for putting you in the positive mindset needed to slog through a few dozen more emails. This happens because sativa provides a boost in serotonin, the feel-good chemical that helps to regulate learning, mood, sleep, anxiety and appetite.

One of the best strains for mental clarity carried by Herbal Alternatives is Classic Jack, a sativa-dominant strain that’s known for providing a high that keeps you feeling “blissful, clear-headed and creative.” 

Where to buy

While states like California and Colorado have given the green light to recreational cannabis sales, DC has been trapped in somewhat of a grey area. Back in 2014, when Initiative 71 was passed, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana became legal for anyone over 21, as well as the transference of up to one ounce to another person as long as no money is exchanged. 

Those wanting to go the official route can apply for a medical card and then visit one of DC’s seven medical marijuana dispensaries, which are still open, since they are deemed essential  services. Metropolitan Wellness Center, Capital City Care and the National Holistic Healing Center are all options. 

Got your card already? As of last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Department of Health also announced an emergency rule that now allows registered patients to order cannabis directly to their homes from dispensaries. 

If applying for a card seems too tedious, another option is the many delivery services in DC that offer weed as a “gift with the purchase” in order to comply with local laws, such as High Speed or Joint Delivery. Sure, you may not need any stickers, tie-dye pencils or even inspirational quotes spoken aloud to you, but that is technically what you’ll be paying for when they come to deliver your bud or edibles

 And let’s be real, it definitely can’t hurt to hear the motivational words of John Lennon or Maya Angelou during these hard times, especially when they’re accompanied by some very special Rice Krispies treats.

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