Using low-dose THC may be the key to curbing cannabis-induced paranoia, a new study reveals.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago found that low levels of THC reduced stress in study participants, while slightly higher doses actually increased anxiety.

“Very few published studies have looked into the effects of THC on stress, or at the effects of different levels of THC on stress," said corresponding study author Emma Childs of the UIC College of Medicine.

"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."

Researchers recruited 42 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 40 who had some experience with cannabis use but didn’t consume it on the daily. Volunteers were put randomly into three groups, with one group receiving capsules with 7.5 milligrams of THC, one group receiving capsules with 12.5 milligrams of THC, and a placebo group receiving capsules containing no THC. Both the participants and the researchers had no knowledge of who was in each group.

"The doses used in the study produce effects that are equivalent to only a few puffs of a cannabis cigarette," said Childs. "We didn't want to include a much larger dose, because we wanted to avoid potential adverse effects or cardiovascular effects that can result from higher doses of THC."

Volunteers partook in two four-hour sessions at the University of Chicago, five days apart. During each session, they ingested their capsules and relaxed for two hours as the THC was absorbed in their bloodstreams.

In one session, volunteers were tasked with preparing for a mock job interview. Then they had to complete a five-minute interview with lab assistants who didn’t offer any feedback, although participants could watch a video that showed their performance. They were then asked to count backwards from a five-digit number by subtracting 13, for five minutes – something considered “very reliably stress-inducing”, according to Childs.

In the session that followed, volunteers had to talk to lab assistants about a favorite book or movie for five minutes and then play solitaire for five minutes. Before, during and after each of the two tasks, volunteers rated their stress and their feelings about the activities. Blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol were measured at intervals.

It was revealed that participants who received 7.5 milligrams of THC were less stressed after the psychosocial test than those who were given a placebo. Their stress levels also went down faster following the test.

Those who received the 12.5 milligrams of THC before the two tasks, on the other hand, reported feeling more negatively before and throughout the activity. They were also more likely to rate the psychosocial chore as “challenging” and “threatening” beforehand.

"Our findings provide some support for the common claim that cannabis is used to reduce stress and relieve tension and anxiety," Childs said.

"At the same time, our finding that participants in the higher THC group reported small but significant increases in anxiety and negative mood throughout the test supports the idea that THC can also produce the opposite effect."

"Studies like these - examining the effects of cannabis and its pharmacological constituents under controlled conditions - are extremely important, considering the widespread use of cannabis for both medical and non-medical purposes," she said. 

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h/t Science Daily