Though the recent history of medicinal cannabis research has focused on its use in stimulating appetite in Cancer and AIDS patients, as well as treating glaucoma, there’s an emerging trend that’s looking at the potential for cannabis to treat mental health disorders like anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Cannabis is a plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae family which is native to central Asia and has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. The plant contains over 100 different chemical compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. One of the most well-known cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
However, another cannabinoid has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its potential therapeutic benefits: cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that is found in both cannabis and hemp plants. Like THC, CBD is found in highest concentrations in the flowers of cannabis plants . It was first isolated in 1940, but ignored for many decades as most researchers focused on the more psychoactive cannabinoid THC . Now, many look to CBD as a way to reap the medicinal benefits of cannabis while avoiding the sometimes contentious status of THC as federal legalization is on the distant horizon. In California and other states where cannabis is legal, you might even see CBD-infused beverages on the shelves of grocery stores.
Here are some more details on of the main chemical compounds found in cannabis and their potential roles:
THC and CBD are the two most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, while CBD has potential therapeutic benefits.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in many plants, including cannabis. Terpenes are responsible for the distinctive smells and flavors of different cannabis strains. Some terpenes may also have health benefits.
Flavonoids are a group of compounds that are responsible for the colors of many fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids have been shown to have antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties . Cannabis contains several different flavonoids.
CBD interacts with the human body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex system of neurotransmitters, receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids that helps to regulate many different physiological processes in the body, including mood, appetite, and sleep.
CBD interacts with two main receptors in the ECS: CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system and peripheral tissues. CBD may also interact with other receptors and neurotransmitters in the body, including serotonin receptors and the vanilloid receptor.
CBD has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain. However, more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of how CBD interacts with the body to produce these self-reported effects. Despite many points of uncertainty and pending research, CBD has shown promise as a potential natural treatment option for a variety of health issues.
CBD has gained a lot of attention in recent years for its potential therapeutic benefits for anxiety. While there is some evidence to support the use of CBD for anxiety, there are also limitations to the current research, and more studies are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks.
Several studies investigating the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety have borne promising results. Some of the proposed benefits of CBD for anxiety, according to emerging research, include:
In the scientific literature, any drug or substance that causes a decrease in anxiety is known as an anxiolytic. Hence CBD is the subject of ongoing research into these proposed anxiolytic properties of CBD and their underlying mechanisms. Despite the need for some caution, these initial findings are exciting for researchers and sufferers of these varying facets of anxiety alike.
Using a measure called the Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS), a study found that patients with social anxiety disorder showed a decrease in anxiety symptoms when given CBD as compared to a placebo group.
Based on the Journal of Psychopharmacology, “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: A preliminary report”,
CBD shows a decrease in SAD symptoms compared with Placebo:
It must be kept in mind that current pharmaceutical treatments for anxiety include benzodiazepines, a highly addictive class of depressant drugs that are known to create dependency and are widely abused . Hence a less addictive treatment with minimal potential for street level abuse is a desideratum.
Even in the years prior to legalization, many people attempted to use cannabis to replace prescription drugs, out of fear of addiction or to cut back on unwanted side-effects. In one study of 2,841 responders, 65.2% used CBD oil specifically . Another study from 2019 found that up to 45.2% of patients previously prescribed benzodiazepines were able to discontinue their use once they started cannabis therapy. Hence an indirect benefit of using CBD to treat anxiety is a decrease in benzodiazepine use and dependence.
As with any emerging field of research, there are also limitations to the current findings regarding the use of CBD for anxiety, including:
Researchers are also exploring the potential for treating anxiety with CBD in combination with more traditional approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). A 2020 review published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that CBD may enhance the effects of CBT for anxiety disorders. The review suggests that CBD may be a useful adjunct to CBT for people with anxiety disorders, although the full extent and longevity of any positive effect is yet to be determined.
Preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects.
Overall, the existing research on CBD and anxiety is promising, but more studies are needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of using CBD for anxiety, including standardized dosages and formulations. However, with the recent findings and breakthroughs in this field, and increasing concerns about the abuse of benzodiazepines, CBD may emerge as a viable option for people struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive and persistent worry or fear. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, each with their own unique symptoms and diagnostic criteria. As shown above, CBD might prove to be an effective treatment for several different types of anxiety disorders.
This is a condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry or anxiety about everyday events or activities.
This is a condition characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort.
This is a condition characterized by intense fear or anxiety about social situations, such as public speaking or meeting new people.
These are conditions characterized by intense fear or anxiety about specific objects or situations, such as heights, spiders, or flying.
This is a condition characterized by intrusive and unwanted thoughts or obsessions, which are often accompanied by compulsive behaviors or rituals.
This is a condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, and is characterized by intrusive and distressing memories or flashbacks, as well as avoidance behaviors.
Despite a lacuna in research on the physiological basis of anxiety and any connection to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), some potential ways that CBD may affect each type of anxiety disorder include:
CBD is available in a variety of forms, including oils, tinctures, capsules, edibles, topicals, and more. Each form has its own unique properties and may impact the effectiveness of CBD for anxiety relief in different ways.
The different forms of CBD available in the market include:
While all forms of CBD have the potential to be effective for anxiety relief, some forms may be more effective than others, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. Some factors that may impact the effectiveness of CBD for anxiety relief include:
Here’s a convenient graph of the varying degrees of bioavailability for various kinds of CBD products you can use for anxiety:
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to using CBD for anxiety relief, some specific CBD products that may be helpful include:
Determining the right CBD dosage for anxiety can be challenging, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The optimal dosage may vary depending on the individual’s weight, metabolism, medical history, and other factors. However, there are some general guidelines and factors to consider when finding the right CBD dosage for anxiety.
The following factors help determine the right CBD dosage for anxiety and should be carefully considered before starting any treatment:
Finding the optimal dosage of CBD for anxiety may require some trial and error, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some tips for finding the optimal CBD dosage for anxiety include:
While CBD is generally considered safe, and will never produce the occasionally disorienting effects of THC, taking too much CBD can lead to certain risks and side effects, such as fatigue, diarrhea, changes in appetite and weight, dry mouth, dizziness, and low blood pressure. Hence it’s important for people new to CBD to start with a low dose and gradually increase it as needed to avoid taking too much. For people with complex medical histories or currently on medication, it is advisable to talk to a healthcare provider before taking CBD in any form.
Especially since CBD can interact with other medications, it may not be safe for certain populations. As with any substance we ingest, there are some potential side effects and risks associated with using CBD.
Despite CBD being generally considered safe and well-tolerated, some possible side effects of using CBD for anxiety include:
Yes, CBD can interact with other medications taken for anxiety or other conditions. Specifically, CBD can inhibit the activity of certain enzymes in the liver that are responsible for metabolizing medications, which can lead to higher levels of those medications in the bloodstream. This can increase the risk of side effects and may be dangerous for some people.
Some medications that may interact with CBD include:
Once again, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before using CBD if you are taking any medications, to ensure that there are no potential interactions.
There are some specific populations that may be at higher risk for side effects or interactions of CBD with other medications. These populations include:
While CBD may be a game-changing option for some people’s struggles with anxiety, there are certain groups of people who must proceed with caution. As with any new phytochemical that behaves similarly to a pharmacologically active substance, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before using it, especially if you are taking any medications or have any medical conditions. By working with a healthcare provider, you can ensure that you are using CBD safely and effectively, and minimize the risk of side effects and interactions with other medications.
The legal status of CBD usage for various ailments including anxiety varies depending on the region. In some countries and states, CBD is legal for medical or recreational use, while in others, it is only legal for medical use or completely illegal along with other cannabis-derived substances. Additionally, the regulation of CBD products can vary widely, making it important for consumers to be diligent in selecting safe and high-quality products.
Some regions where CBD is legal for medical or recreational use include:
In other regions, CBD is only legal for medical use, such as in Australia, Lebanon, Uganda, Ghana, and some states in the United States. CBD as part of traditional Ayurvedic preparations, such as vijaya, are legal for medicinal uses in India. CBD is completely illegal in several other Asian countries and in most Middle Eastern countries.
Very recently in the United States CBD is no longer subject to an outright ban in any state. Current laws specify whether CBD derived from cannabis flowers or industrial hemp may be used, and whether people need a prescription for medical cannabis to use them.
Given the rapidly emerging market for medicinal-grade CBD and various extracts, sometimes the regulation of this dynamic industry is lax or struggling to keep up the pace. As a CBD consumer, make sure you perform your due diligence before purchasing or consuming any CBD product. Some tips for ensuring that you are purchasing safe and high-quality CBD products include:
When one’s health is concerned, you can never be too careful. By looking for third-party testing, checking the THC content, considering the extraction method, and doing research on the company, consumers can ensure that they are purchasing safe and effective CBD products for anxiety relief.
A comprehensive guide to CBD and its potential benefits in treating anxiety from one of the most trusted medical organizations in the world.
A resource from a leading government agency that provides information on anxiety disorders and their treatment, including the potential use of CBD.
A collection of articles and research on CBD and its potential use in treating anxiety from a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting research into the medical uses of CBD.
An article exploring the potential benefits and risks of CBD for mental health, including anxiety, from a leading professional organization for psychologists in the United States.
A collection of resources and information on CBD and its potential use in treating anxiety from a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with anxiety and depression.
A guide to purchasing safe and high-quality CBD products, including tips on what to look for and what to avoid, from a leading consumer advocacy organization.
After spending years in the shadow of THC, CBD has rapidly become one of the most well-known cannabinoids. By interacting with the body’s vast endocannabinoid system and various regions of the brain, such as the amygdala, CBD has many potential therapeutic benefits. These benefits include alleviating the symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety, which affect millions of people in America and across the globe. They also provide a potential alternative treatment to traditional pharmaceuticals prescribed for anxiety like benzodiazepines. Though there is still a lot to learn about dosage, long-term effects, and potential drug interactions, the research so far has demonstrated that some people may safely take CBD for their anxiety and live less encumbered lives.