How Does Cannabis Help With Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting approximately 40 million adults – or 18.1% of the population. The most common medical treatments for anxiety in the U.S. are the use of pharmaceutical drugs like benzodiazepines, buspirone, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. Many people are dissatisfied with pharmaceuticals (which often have severe side effects) and choose to seek alternatives like medical cannabis and hemp.
It’s well known that THC induces anxiety in some people, but preliminary studies suggest CBD could have different effects. The non-psychoactive compound helps to reduce the stress response, soothing both a racing mind and an exhausted body. If you find success using CBD for anxiety, you may also find that it helps to alleviate the gastrointestinal upset, muscle tension, clenching, fatigue, and chronic pain often associated with anxiety disorders.
In addition to self-care and therapy, many people incorporate cannabinoid-based supplements into their treatment regimen for natural anxiety relief. The best part? When using CBD, you’re reaping the benefits of an all natural supplement that is non-toxic, non-addictive, and has very few (if any) side effects.
There are seven major types of anxiety listed below:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)
- Phobias (Irrational Fears)
In some aspects, cannabis has actually been linked to inducing feelings of anxiety and paranoia in some people. However, these effects are generally linked to THC, and CBD may provide a very different range of benefits. Preliminary studies have linked CBD to anxiolytic effects, and evidence shows that the body’s Endocannabinoid System directly modulates anxiety-related processes. More research is needed to understand the full extent of CBD’s anxiolytic potential, and research efforts are expected to rise as interest surrounding CBD for anxiety steadily increases.
In order to understand how to apply CBD for anxiety, we turn to a series of medical studies that have been conducted over the past ten years. These studies evaluated CBD’s medical efficacy in treating those who suffer from various types of anxiety. We will address the results below.
What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in Anxiety?
Although CBD was originally identified in the mid 1940s, researchers were more interested in THC until recently. In the last decade, however, experts have uncovered a range of benefits linked to CBD for anxiety and other conditions, inciting even more curiosity of the potential medicinal value of the cannabis plant. Now, research is rapidly expanding and information regarding the endocannabinoid delivery system’s involvement in brain processes led them to question the potential anxiolytic effects of the cannabinoid.
In fact, research exists that suggests cannabidiol could be a suitable option for managing anxiety in a range of circumstances or related to a variety of mental health conditions, though further evidence is needed to solidify this claim. Some research digs into the value of cannabidiol as an anxiolytic medication when used on its own, as well as when used in combination with THC and other cannabinoids.
Further research investigates specifics, like the effects of CBD for PTSD-related anxiety, including one pediatric case. Research also evaluates the effects of cannabidiol on the spectrum of anxiety-related disorders and highlights the prominent value in using the cannabinoid for social anxiety and related disorders.
Even more, studies suggest that cannabidiol may have some therapeutic value that applies to a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, like improving sleep and focus or managing stress. However, there are several studies that aim their focus directly at cannabidiol when used as an anti-anxiety medication, like the following:
1. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug.
A 2012 study concluded, “Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Moreover, CBD was shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder.”
Learn More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22729452
2. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa.
A 2014 study suggested, “that CBD exhibited an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in animal models discussed. Most of the studies demonstrated a good interaction between CBD and the 5-HT1A neuro-receptor.” For reference, the 5-HT1A receptor is a subtype of the serotonin receptors that are often targeted with pharmaceutical drugs like SSRIs.
Learn More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339
3. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients.
A 2011 double-blind study evaluated the use of CBD is the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in a format where the participants partook in a public speaking simulation. The study showed, “Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group…”
Learn More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21307846
4. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report.
A 2011 study looked to evaluate the effect of CBD on pathological anxiety and its underlying brain mechanisms, it concluded, “Relative to placebo, CBD was associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety, reduced ECD uptake in the left parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampus, and inferior temporal gyrus, and increased ECD uptake in the right posterior cingulate gyrus. These results suggest that CBD reduces anxiety in SAD and that this is related to its effects on activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas.”
Learn More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20829306
5. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report.
A 2016 study evaluated the effects of CBD on a 10 year old girl with pediatric anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. “Pharmaceutical medications provided partial relief, but results were not long-lasting, and there were major side effects. A trial of CBD oil resulted in a maintained decrease in anxiety and a steady improvement in the quality and quantity of the patient’s sleep. CBD oil, an increasingly popular treatment of anxiety and sleep issues, has been documented as being an effective alternative to pharmaceutical medications. This case study provides clinical data that support the use of CBD oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep in a young girl with posttraumatic stress disorder.”
Learn More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27768570
As outlined above, the connection between CBD and anxiety reduction is strong and well documented. Several studies have validated CBD’s efficacy as an anxiolytic drug.
Which CBD products help with anxiety?
As you design a CBD routine to help manage any condition, including anxiety, it’s important to note that CBD has not been proven to help with this condition. That being said, if you are interested in trying a plant-based approach: In order to utilize cannabidiol most effectively, you should first use it as a daily preventative treatment. Like most medications, you’ll need to establish a baseline concentration in your body in order to reap these protective benefits. Then, if you find that you still need relief from acute flare-ups, CBD for anxiety may provide fast relief.
These two products are virtually the same, containing high-quality full-spectrum CBD oil. The primary difference between the two is dosing style—sublingual tinctures vs oral gel capsules. For greater efficacy, choose a tincture or gel capsule that combines CBD for anxiety with MCT oil to increase absorption.
After utilizing cannabidiol as an anxiety preventative, many people find that they still experience occasional acute flare-ups. CBD may be useful for these flares as well. Depending on your preference, there are several different products that may fit into your anti-anxiety regimen.
Whether it’s caused by an upcoming event, poor lifestyle choices, or stress – we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute anxiety flare-ups. Vaping is unique in that it provides near immediate effects from CBD for anxiety. CBD isolate is a form of cannabidiol that is 99% pure, and vaporizing it allows it to immediately enter the bloodstream through the lungs, providing an instant burst of total-body relief.
If you prefer, you can also take more gel capsules or tincture to combat these acute flare-ups, but be aware that they take significantly longer to kick in than vaporized CBD for anxiety—roughly 1.5 hours vs 10 minutes.
Many people find that the most effective CBD regimen for anxiety involves a combination of high-quality CBD products, and your CBD routine should be unique to you.
What is the correct dosage of CBD for anxiety?
Choosing the correct dosage for you is a process that involves your unique characteristics, like what condition you wish to treat, the severity of the condition, your tolerance to cannabinoid-based supplements, body weight, and more. If you are new to cannabidiol, you may need to start with a lower dose and work your way up in order to monitor the effects and settle on an effective dose.
We suggest starting with 5-10mg per day of CBD for anxiety relief. If no relief is felt as this dosage, we suggest increasing the dose by 5-10mg until the desired level of relief is reached. Tinctures are an easy way to increase your dose in small increments every day, so they provide a great starting point for first-time CBD users.
For a more convenient, pre-measured dose, you may consider the CBD capsules instead. Many brands offer a low-dose capsule, like a 10mg capsule, that make it easy to get started using CBD for anxiety. Since you cannot overdose on CBD (and there are no serious side effects) you’re fine to start at the lowest dose capsule offered and slowly increase from there.
As you monitor effects to adjust your dose, remember that ingestible CBD products have a delayed onset time – it can take up to 1.5 hours to experience the full effects of tinctures or capsules. Of course, these types of products also provide lengthy relief, and many people report that the effects last all day!
CBD vaporizers are a bit more tricky to dose unless you find a vape pen with a metered timer, and still, it’s hard to be sure. However, the effects kick in quickly when vaping CBD for anxiety, so you can easily monitor and adjust the dose as needed. Try starting with one or two puffs off the CBD vape you choose, and then wait 10-15 minutes to monitor the effects. Then, you can essentially “stack” on a new dose every 10 minutes until the desired effects are reached.
A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions
Many studies have verified the solid safety profile of cannabidiol, which even led to the World Health Organization supporting its responsible use. However, research has shown that cannabidiol may have the potential to interact with certain medications in a similar manner to grapefruit juice: by interacting with the same liver enzymes needed for absorption of most compounds. CBD is metabolized by the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme group, a group of enzymes also responsible for breaking down nearly 80% of prescription medications.
Interactions could include many of the prescription medications taken for anxiety, like Prozac or Paxil, which utilize cytochrome P450 pathways for absorption. The interaction between CBD for anxiety and most medications are not known to be dangerous unless the medication is used to treat life-threatening symptoms. It simply may reduce the number of liver enzymes available for metabolizing other medications, reducing absorption and efficacy.
Fortunately, the effect CBD has on these liver enzymes is only temporary. Many people avoid drug interactions by putting some space between their CBD dose and their other regular medications. If you’re on other medications, just talk to your doctor about CBD before using it. He or she should be able to let you know how CBD could interfere with your normal medical routine.