Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active component of cannabis, can cause anxiety in some users during intoxication. Cannabidiol (CBD), another constituent of cannabis, has anxiolytic properties suggesting that cannabis products containing CBD in addition to THC may produce less anxiety than THC-only products. Findings to date around this issue have been inconclusive and could conceivably depend on moderating factors such as baseline anxiety levels in users.

The present study examined whether anxiety following single doses of vaporised THC, CBD and THC/CBD might be explained by state and trait anxiety levels at baseline.

A placebo-controlled, randomised, within-subjects study including 26 healthy recreational cannabis users tested the effects of vaporised THC-dominant cannabis (13.75 mg THC), CBD-dominant cannabis (13.75 mg CBD), THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis (13.75 mg THC/13.75 mg CBD) and placebo cannabis on anxiety. Self-rated trait anxiety was assessed with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). State levels of anxiety were objectively assessed with a computer-based emotional Stroop task (EST) and subjectively rated with the STAI-state questionnaire and a visual analogue scale.

Both THC and THC/CBD significantly increased self-rated state anxiety compared to placebo. State anxiety after THC/CBD was significantly lower than after THC alone. THC-induced anxiety was independent of anxiety at baseline. When baseline anxiety was low, CBD completely counteracted THC-induced anxiety; however, when baseline anxiety was high, CBD did not counteract THC-induced anxiety. There were no effects of any treatment condition on the EST.

Overall, the study demonstrated that the THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis induces less state anxiety than THC-dominant cannabis.