Can CBD Help Anxiety? Research, Use and Risks

Can CBD Help Anxiety? Research, Use and Risks

Research on cannabidiol (CBD) is still limited and evidence that it helps with anxiety is largely anecdotal. However, a number of small clinical trials studying the use of CBD to address anxiety and other conditions are currently in process. As evidence begins to grow, the news looks good  news for the 7.3% of people globally who suffer from anxiety disorders.  

For those living with anxiety, a major concern is finding a safe way to manage their symptoms. Some current medications offer quick relief but may have various side effects or addiction risks. Other long-term anxiety medications may help to reduce symptoms over time, but they do not work for everyone.

This is where CBD may offer a welcome natural alternative in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

What is CBD?

CBD is one of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is also found in the plant. THC is the psychoactive compound that creates the euphoric feeling or “high,” whereas CBD does not have any intoxicating effects. To be legally sold in the U.S., CBD derived from hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% of THC

How CBD Affects Neurotransmitters

The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) with receptors all over the body. It regulates various bodily functions, such as immune response, appetite, moods and pain reception. CBD is believed to work with the receptors found in the nervous system.

CBD is thought to influence serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate emotions. It could possibly work in a similar way to serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).SSRI medications are often used to treat anxiety and depression. They  target a serotonin receptor, 5HT1-A, to increase serotonin availability in the brain. Scientists have found that CBD is able to bind partially with this receptor.

Relevant Studies

In addition to considerable anecdotal evidence of people finding anxiety relief with CBD, results from a few clinical studies are also promising.

  • A well-known 2011 study found that CBD may help relieve the anxiety experienced with public speaking. Dosing participants with CBD significantly reduced their discomfort and anxiety  about their speech performance.
  • A 2015 review analysis of 49 existing studies found evidence to support CBD as an option to address conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The findings mostly involved acute CBD dosing in healthy subjects. Overall, the review emphasized the potential value of using CBD for anxiety disorders and the need for further studies. 
  • A 2019 study found that CBD reduced anxiety-like behavior in rats. Another 2019 study was conducted on 37 Japanese teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD). One group of participants received 300mg of CBD oil every day and a control group received a placebo. The study lasted for four weeks and a survey was conducted to assess symptoms before and after treatment. The CBD significantly reduced symptoms and provided relief comparable to taking Paroxetine, a drug often used to treat the condition.

The funding of appropriate clinical studies will help to facilitate the integration of CBD as a mainstream option for addressing anxiety. 

What to Consider When Trying CBD for Anxiety

Your unique body chemistry will affect how you respond to CBD. If you metabolize it quickly, you may benefit from a higher dosage. CBD has been found safe to take in high doses but it is always advisable to start low and go slow. There are no dosing guidelines so it requires some experimentation to establish your ideal dosage.

When you start low and go slow, you can pay attention to subtle changes in your body as it responds to the CBD. Optimum dosage will depend on factors like body weight, metabolism and concentration of CBD.

Consider starting with CBD oil drops because they have high bioavailability, meaning they’re easily absorbed by the body. Use the dropper to place the drops under the tongue (sublingually) and allow them to stay there before swallowing, so they are absorbed into the bloodstream. CBD gummies are another fast-acting option.

CBD may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, and it is always important to consult with your doctor first before using it. A tip: Use the “grapefruit rule.” If your prescription medication says to avoid grapefruit, then you should talk to your doctor before trying CBD. That’s because CBD interacts with some medications the same way grapefruit does, slowing down metabolic processes and resulting in higher levels of medication in your system.

Before Buying CBD, Do Your Research  

Interest in CBD increases as both anecdotal and scientific evidence surrounding anxiety and other mental health conditions continues to expand. For the best possible results, shop with reputable companies. Look for key information, such as where the hemp was grown, how it was extracted and third-party laboratory tests. This enables you to make sure you know exactly what you are buying and how much CBD the product contains.

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