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CBD And Anxiety: What Does the Latest Research Say?

Medicinal marijuana and CBD for anxiety and anxiety disorders is not news at all. In fact, Cannabis sativa has been in use for this and other purposes for thousands of years already, dating as far back as 4000 BC. [1]

Science does not seem quick to catch on to what our ancestors knew about natural remedies for ages, but there is progress.

Following is some of the latest research on medical marijuana, and more specifically, CBD for anxiety and related disorders. You can also read on to learn more about the safety of taking this salubrious plant extract for any health condition.

CBD And Anxiety—Anecdotal Evidence

A quick online search of the forums reveals plenty of anecdotal evidence confirming the efficacy of CBD for anxiety.

Says one Reddit user: "Recently a friend of mine introduced me to CBD oil. I've used it for five days now and I don't know if I'm fooling myself, but I feel way more clear in my head...I've noticed a difference in the past week, I'm much more productive, I think clearly and I don't go over the same thoughts over and over again. It has also reduced my weed smoking." [2]

But what does research say?

CBD for Anxiety in Panic Disorder (PD)

Any person who has never experienced a panic attack can’t possibly know how disabling and horrifying this is. Panic disorder is thought to chronically affect approximately five percent of the world's population.

Currently, doctors routinely prescribe antidepressants (SSRIs in particular) as a first-line treatment for the disorder, but the medicine's associated side effects are often the reason for noncompliance with treatment.

In a 2017 Brazilian review, the researchers discussed CBD's anti-panic effects as well as the mechanisms involved. They found plenty of relevant pre-clinical and clinical evidence that CBD works well for panic attacks. Ironically, taking too much THC, the other well-known cannabinoid in cannabis, can cause panic attacks, so it would be prudent to choose preparations with primarily CBD.

Their search also revealed where CBD appears to work on sites in the brain associated with anxiety and panic attacks, including the:

  • amygdala
  • cingulate gyrus
  • cortex
  • basal ganglia
  • hippocampus
  • hypothalamus
  • and other areas.

Encouragingly, the authors concluded: "...the results presented in this chapter, which were derived from both laboratory animal and human studies, support the notion that CBD exhibits anti-panic properties. Despite the described panic response reported as a result of cannabis use, it is important to note that CBD does not present psychoactive effects; it is safe and well-tolerated via the oral route (up to 1,500 mg/day). Moreover, because this compound does not induce dependence, tolerance and abstinence symptoms, it can be, in the future, a good alternative as a substitute for high potency benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs in PD patients who are resistant to the current treatments." [3]

The authors noted that while the research is promising, more well-designed studies are needed on CBD and anxiety-related disorders.

CBD And Anxiety in PTSD and OCD

While PTSD and OCD are no longer classified as anxiety disorders in the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, anxiety is still an excessive symptom in both.

Clinical research on PTSD and cannabidiol (CBD) is positive, and a recent U.S. review of the literature revealed that CBD significantly reduced depression, insomnia, and anxiety in PTSD patients. The authors concluded that cannabis is a "possible pharmacological intervention for PTSD." [4]

Less clinical and statistically significant data is available for the effects of CBD on OCD. In a 2010 animal study, CBD was shown to significantly reduce compulsive behavior in mice. The authors concluded that CBD is one of the drugs acting on the cannabinoid system that could possibly modulate behavior associated with OCD. [5]

CBD For Anxiety and Insomnia

CBD is a well-known remedy for insomnia also in children. It has been shown to be effective in a 2016 case study looking at PTSD-related pediatric anxiety and insomnia. The researchers stated that pharmaceuticals provided some short-term relief, but with severe side effects. In contrast, the 10-year-old girl, who suffered severe and prolonged trauma as a young child, responded very well to 43 mg CBD supplements per day. The quality of her sleep improved gradually, and her anxiety decreased accordingly.

The researchers commented: "After 5 months, the patient was sleeping in her own room most nights and handling the new school year with no difficulties. No side effects were observed from taking the CBD oil."

Is CBD for Anxiety Safe?

Research says yes, but more study is needed.

In An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies, 2017, the authors concluded: "In general, the often described favorable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research." The most commonly reported side effects include:

  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite/weight

In comparison to other pharmaceuticals, however, CBD emerges a real champion that the authors felt "...could improve patients' compliance and adherence to treatment." They also stated that some important toxicological parameters are still to be studied to see if, for example, CBD affects hormones. The data in the review is encouraging, but more clinical trials are called for. [7]

Using CBD for anxiety or any other serious and/or chronic health condition should always be done with the knowledge of your physician. Also, never attempt to replace prescribed pharmaceuticals with any supplement without first consulting with a healthcare professional. Fortunately, CBD oil is legal in almost every state of the U.S., and it would be best to experiment with doses and preparations till you find what works for you. Always be sure to use a high-quality product for optimal results.


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