Is CBD oil just the latest craze or is it really beneficial in treating various health issues, including mental health? Anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that it helps to reduce anxiety and studies appear to back this up with evidence pointing towards the calming effect of CBD on the central nervous system. CBD also seems to be safe to take with few side effects, unlike certain prescription drugs used to help with anxiety and other mental health problems.
CBD oil and anxiety
Anxiety of some form or another affects about 20 percent of the population and it is the most common mental health disorder. If CBD helps to relieve anxiety, this could be good news for the many people who suffer from various anxiety disorders.
The way CBD helps with treating anxiety is not fully understood but that does not stop people with anxiety from using it to find relief. A 2019 Gallup Poll found that 14% of Americans use CBD and in another poll, nearly 40% of CBD users say they use it for anxiety and claim it is very effective.
A study on the use of cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep was recently published in Permanente Journal. The large retrospective case series at a psychiatric clinic involved using CBD for anxiety and sleep complaints as an adjunct to usual treatment.
Nearly all of the 103 patients received 25mg/d of CBD in capsule form. If anxiety was the main complaint, the patient was dosed in the morning after breakfast and if sleep was the main problem, dosing was every evening after dinner. Anxiety and sleep quality was documented monthly.
In the final sample of 72 adults, anxiety scores decreased in the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained this way for the duration of the study. Sleep scores also improved in the first month in 48 patients (66.7%) but went up and down over time.
CBD and psychiatric disorders
Research studies on animals and humans show that CBD may be of benefit for a number of mental health conditions.
According to a systemic review recently published in the Journal of Cannabis Research, the use of CBD and compounds containing CBD for psychiatric disorders requires further exploration in large-scale studies. The review included case reports, open-label trials, case series, non-randomized and randomized controlled trials.
The researchers found there was moderate evidence to support the use of CBD to alleviate social anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and cannabis-related disorders. There was less evidence that it could help with conditions like anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and Tourette syndrome.
Another systematic review was conducted during 2019, assessing the data from all case studies and clinical trials involving medicinal marijuana or plant-derived isolates for major psychiatric disorders. Researchers concluded that as evidence is just starting to emerge, it is currently premature to recommend cannabinoid-based interventions for psychiatric disorders.
The review did find some support for CBD’s ability to reduce social anxiety with mixed but mainly positive evidence for its use in schizophrenia. Case studies did suggest that medical cannabis may be beneficial for improving sleep and post-traumatic stress disorder. The preliminary findings of the research did not show any benefit of CBD in mania or THC therapeutics for depression.
What both these reviews suggest is that further large-scale research must be done to establish the efficacy of using CBD oil for mental health conditions.
Is CBD oil safe to use?
The World Health Organization reports that CBD shows no effects that indicate abuse or dependence potential. To date, there is no evidence of any public health-related issues associated with the use of pure CBD.
Side effects: Most people who use CBD do not experience few to no side effects, although some with sensitivity to CBD may experience nausea, fatigue, irritability or diarrhea. The reason some people experience side effects is that the product does not contain the levels of CBD they think it does.
Safety regulations: CBD is currently marketed and sold as a supplement and not as medication. This means that the FDA does not regulate its safety and purity. It is difficult to know whether a product contains the active ingredients at the dosage listed on a label and it could contain unknown elements like pesticides or heavy metals. There are ways to determine safety, such as looking at the results of third party laboratory tests, and reputable suppliers will readily provide such test results.
Effective therapeutic dosage: Another problem when using CBD is that the most effective therapeutic dose for a particular medical condition is still unknown. Without quality evidence from human studies, it is difficult to pinpoint effective doses. This is why it is so important to start with a low dosage when first taking CBD and slowly build up to an effective level.
Medication interactions: One concern is that CBD can raise the levels of other medications in the blood. Even though there are those who swear by its effectiveness as a health remedy, talk to your healthcare provider before taking CBD products, especially when you are already taking other medications for mental health. CBD is not a replacement for anti-depressants or anti-psychotics and you should keep taking these medications unless your healthcare provider says you can go off them.
The bottom line on CBD oil for mental health
While the use of CBD oil is extremely popular, we are only starting to find out how it works and this has to be kept in mind when using it for anxiety and any other mental health disorders.
Some CBD manufacturers make claims that CBD is a cure-all which it is not. If you are going to use CBD, it is important to purchase products from a reputable supplier and consult with your health practitioner. More research is needed into the use of CBD for mental health, although there is some evidence that it may be an option in helping to manage various forms of anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain.
Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
The therapeutic role of Cannabidiol in mental health: a systematic review https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-019-0012-y
Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6966847/