Bud Voyage: How 6 Travelers Cope With the Fear of Flying and Flight-Related Anxiety

Welcome to Bud Voyage, the Emerald‘s monthly column by Ashley Laderer discussing all things travel, cannabis, and how combining the two can make your adventures that much better. Wanderlust may ensue…so pack your bags, prepare for takeoff, and get ready to join the other mile high club.

Laderer is an avid traveller, and writer who splits most of her time between New York and Los Angeles.

Editor’s note: Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level in the U.S., and in most countries throughout the world. Traveling with it, or using it abroad can result in harsh penalties for foreigners. Last names have been removed for privacy. 


Despite the fact that traveling by plane is statistically safer than traveling by car, there’s a lot of people out there who fear traveling by air. Around 2.5% to 6.5% of the U.S. population has a fear of flying, AKA aviophobia. (Sounds small, but that’s actually still millions and millions of people!)

Various estimates conclude that around 25% of people in the U.S. don’t necessarily fear flying, but do experience some type of anxiety surrounding it. That’s a lot of fearful flyers. While many people turn to alcohol and/or Xanax on flights, others are turning to weed.

It’s no surprise that cannabis enthusiasts are getting high before taking to the skies. That’s because the plant produces anxiety-relieving compounds—and anxious travelers are cashing in on them.

Studies have shown that both THC and CBD have anti-anxiety effects, due to the way they interact with our bodies’ endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a role in the way we perceive and feel anxiety and fear. 

Here’s how cannabis helps six people cope with their airplane-related travel anxiety:

 

“Airplanes can give me so much joy, but also frequently, a lot of anxiety. I have a bit of claustrophobia. For me, plane rides mean not only the anxiety of the destination but also of the inescapable claustrophobia of being somewhere squished in for [several] hours at a time. Cannabis has been a lifesaver for my flights. I’ve taken edibles and/or vaped before flights to keep me calm while in the air on the way to stressful destinations, and the dreaded times where I’m squished with folks on one or both sides of me. Cannabis has been my superhero for the sky.” —Jennifer

 

“I don’t take edibles except when I fly. I like to use lollipops especially because they’re easy to dose and very discreet. [My fear] is specific to flying and it only developed in the last four or five years. It’s because I’m finally starting my adult life, and I’ve never had so much potential and so much to lose. I usually fly overseas so the plane going down in water makes me more nervous than over land. My anxiety also makes it feel like everyone’s used up all the oxygen, and we’re gonna suffocate. Edibles always make me feel warm, comfortable, safe, and tired enough to sleep the entire trip, which I can never do on a plane otherwise.” —Tessa

 

“You get to the airport and there are hundreds of people. You wait in line and you are just surrounded. I really dislike crowds and being in a line like that, I feel trapped. I can’t get out. If I have a 5mg mint before leaving, I’m just in a lot more control. I am not panicking if we hit traffic or if they need to search my bag. I don’t feel so overwhelmed that I can’t move. Five milligrams seems to just be the perfect amount where I am not stoned, but just calm.” —Joe

 

“My rational brain knows flying is the safest form of travel. But without fail, my anxiety will creep in every time and say, ‘What if today is the day one goes down?!’ I travel a lot, so I just can’t be entertaining these thoughts and panic every time my flight takes off. Because of this irrational, yet persistent fear, I have been taking 5-10mg of a CBD edible before every flight. It just makes the whole experience so much more pleasant. I’m able to relax and even enjoy the process.” —Kristina 

 

“I’ve flown many times, but it wasn’t until recently that I would get extreme anxiety during take-off until the plane made it to the correction elevation levels. It’s one of my favorite parts of plane rides. But with the increase in plane crashes recently, it’s become one of the most dreadful parts of the trip. This year, I started taking edibles right before leaving for the airport. The high lasts longer [than smoking] and is more intense. It takes a while to kick in so I’m still high and more relaxed during take-off. I’ve done sober flights and the take-off anxiety is the absolute worse, to the point that I’m gripping the armrests and hyperventilating. I definitely prefer flying while I’m high.” —Taylor

 

“I have general anxiety surrounding flying, but more of a phobia of germs on planes. It’s such a small area, and I read too much about what doesn’t get cleaned often on planes. I often wear a mask traveling in the winter. I always have to say prayers before I take off and just have to psych my mind out for flights because I get a parade of horrible thoughts of disasters. My anxiety is up until we are in the air. Turbulence makes anxiety even worse. To be safe, I usually smoke before flights. Edibles are helpful too. I feel way more chill before flights using these methods because my anxiety is down and I’m detached from my paranoia. [I can be] just focused on the moment instead of worrying.” —Erica

 

Be Cautious

If you plan on using cannabis to cope with an upcoming flight for the first time, err on the side of caution. For example, if you haven’t taken edibles in a while and you want to before a flight, go for a low dosage. You definitely don’t want the plan to backfire and increase your anxiety. 

Alternatively, stick to CBD (a la Kristina, mentioned above) if you’re weary of being stoned in the sky. The cannabinoid has anti-anxiety properties without the psychotropic effects. 

Take it from these six travelers; cannabis can really make a difference when it comes to travel-related anxiety. Add cannabis into your pre-flight routine, and you might just find yourself becoming a frequent flyer.

 

Emerald contributor since March 2012

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