cbd for anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States each year. It has been estimated that 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Luckily anxiety is highly treatable. Patients are frequently given Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or they might be prescribed selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to alleviate their symptoms. However, not all patients respond to the currently available pharmacotherapeutic treatment options and many people are turning to CBD to help with their anxiety. In fact, anxiety is the 2nd most common reason people give for using CBD, with 20% of CBD users reporting that they utilize CBD for Anxiety . But does it work?

“With the decriminalization of cannabis, availability of cannabis-derived chemicals (i.e. cannabinoids), and anecdotal evidence for the anxiolytic potential of cannabinoids all becoming ever more widespread, it is important to take stock of the empirical evidence to determine if cannabinoids can live up to their hype as an option for treating anxiety-related disorders in the future.”

-Carl W. Stevenson

What is CBD?

CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is one of over 100 naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis called cannabinoids. It is the second most prominent and well-known cannabinoid after THC. However, unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. So, it does not get you high. The 2018 Farm Bill removed Hemp from the controlled substance list, making hemp-derived CBD products federally legal and placing them under FDA regulation. Since then, Cannabinoids have attracted a lot of interest as potential treatments for a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders including anxiety. This is largely due to the ubiquitous nature of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and how cannabinoids such as CBD interact with that system.

The Endocannabinoid System and Anxiety

Anxiety is an innate behavioral state that allows people to avoid potentially dangerous or harmful situations. When someone anticipates danger their brain evaluates inputs from multiple senses to assess the situation and initiates involuntary, hormonal and behavioral responses such as avoidance, decreased motion, increased heart rate and hypervigilance.  Ideally,  the intensity of these responses would be appropriate in proportion to the perceived threat. In fact, the process that creates anxiety is important to our very survival. However, when anxiety behaviors chronically exceed the normal range and become irreversible, disproportional in intensity, and/or unassociated with any actual risk, they can become very disruptive to a person’s life. Such overreactions may be symptomatic of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety, Social anxiety disorder, and PTSD.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a cell-signaling system that is primarily composed of Endocannabinoids, receptors and Enzymes. The endocannabinoids are produced by the body as needed and bind to the receptors. Once they’ve served their functions they are broken down by the enzymes. In recent years, a ton of data has emerged suggesting the endocannabinoid system as a central link between “the perception of external and internal stimuli to distinct neurophysiological and behavioural outcomes.” In other words, the ECS system seems to act as a “ regulatory buffer system” that assesses what you’re experiencing and modulates your response. When the ECS is not working properly, it can lead to psychiatric disorders (i.e. anxiety).

CBD and the endocannabinoid system

All of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the potential therapeutic effects of CBD for anxiety are still unclear. However, the presence of the receptors and other components of the ECS system in areas of the brain that are important for emotional regulation, defensive behaviours and their corresponding physiological responses indicates that cannabinoids, such as CBD, hold the potential to regulate some of the expressions of anxiety-like behavior. In support of that theory, many neuroimaging studies have shown that “CBD induces significant alterations in brain activity and connectivity patterns during resting state and performance of cognitive tasks in both healthy volunteers and patients with a psychiatric disorder.” 

One way CBD is thought to affect anxiety is through one of the two most studied Endocannabinoids in the ECS system called anandamide. Some research has suggested that CBD may bind to the enzyme (FAAH) that normally breaks down the anandamide and stops it from doing so, thus increasing the amount of anandamide in your system. “Elevating anandamide levels systemically or centrally via the pharmacological inhibition of FAAH is well known to produce anxiolysis” and, therefore, reduce anxiety.

CBD for Anxiety Trials

Although there needs to be much more research and human trials done for CBD. There are a few small studies that further show potential for the therapeutic benefits of CBD for anxiety. For instance, one 36-person study on Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) showed that the 12 SAD patients given 600mg of CBD before taking a simulated public speaking test showed no significant difference than the healthy control group, while the 12 in the placebo group presented “higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group.” 

In a separate study, 57 healthy male subjects were given either a placebo or CBD in doses of 150mg , 300mg or 600mg before a simulated public speaking test. In this test 300mg seemed to significantly reduce anxiety while 150mg and 600mg had no effect. This suggests that CBD may have therapeutic benefits for anxiety, however, it seems to be dose-dependent. Too little or too much could reduce the effectiveness of the CBD or even cause the opposite of the intended effect. 

What’s the right dose of CBD for Anxiety?

The Optimal therapeutic doses of CBD is unknown.There is evidence that the effectiveness of CBD depends on a lot of factors such as body weight, the condition being treated, and how it is administered. Before treating a medical condition, speak to your doctor to determine whether CBD is the right option for you, especially if you’re taking other medications. CBD may interact with many over-the-counter or prescription drugs and supplements. If you are going to use CBD, we would recommend starting with a low to moderate dose and slowly increasing it until you find an optimal dose. It’s worth noting that, in the studies mentioned before, 600mg was effective for participants with untreated social anxiety disorder, while 300mg was effective for healthy men without any anxiety disorder.  

Good CBD can be hard to find so below are some products that we trust. 

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