Cannabis and Health

14 March 2019

How can CBD Help With Anxiety?

Feeling anxious? Stressed out? Depressed? CBD may help to get you back on the right track

Conventional treatments for anxiety, such as Prozac and Valium, are consumed by millions of Americans daily. From selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac and Zoloft, to tranquilisers and benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium, a wide variety of these treatments are consumed by millions of people who suffer from anxiety. 

While these drugs can prove to be useful for many, there are also plenty of others who see minimal, if any, improvement in their medical condition. Indeed, some patients are unable to tolerate the wide variety of adverse effects associated with these types of drugs with clinical trials confirming many (if not all) of them proving to be highly addictive and potentially dangerous when consumed over long periods.

As such, growing demand for research on alternative sources to treat anxiety has seen clinical research on the effectiveness of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders proliferate in recent years with a growing body of scientific evidence pointing to its health benefits and therapeutic potential.

Anxiety Explained

While you may not immediately think of anxiety as a desirable feeling, it is, in fact, a critical response mechanism that serves as a vital tool in our ability to function effectively as a human being.

Without the natural response that anxiety provides, you would be unable to deal with the dangerous or difficult circumstances that you will inevitably encounter throughout your life. Anxiety is also useful in motivating you to perform better in your life and your relationships. And for most people, it is a normal emotion that helps you to cope with the normal pressures associated with modern-day life.

For example, it is not uncommon to feel nerves before a big exam or maybe experience some butterflies in your belly before a 1st date. It is also common to have fears or apprehensions about things like injections, public speaking or creepy-crawlies. These types of anxieties are both typical and relatable. However, many other people with anxiety are unable to manage their responses effectively and, as a consequence, become susceptible to a multitude of clinically diagnosable anxiety disorders.

An array of anxiety disorders currently affect a considerable portion of the American population, with an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults diagnosed with an anxiety-related medical condition in 2017. It is also estimated that up to 40% of U.S. adults will suffer from an anxiety disorder at one point (or more) in their lifetime. 

There are many different types of anxieties and anxiety-related disorders, and while a generalized anxiety disorder is the most common, others include panic disorders(panic attacks), social anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

While some of the symptoms do overlap in many of these disorders, others are more specific to a single disorder. However, all anxiety-related disorders will usually encompass feelings of worry, nervousness or fear that is both continuous and excessive. As a consequence, this has a tremendously negative effect on a person’s ability to function and can cause a significant impact on an individuals life.

How selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work

What Is Anandamide?

For the uninitiated, anandamide (from Sanskrit word ‘Ananda’ literally meaning “divine joy or bliss” is a novel endocannabinoid neurotransmitter in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is changing what we thought we knew about cannabis and the human biology.

Aside from producing blissful sensations of happiness, anandamide was found to interact with different areas of the body that are important to pain, memory, appetite, movement, and emotions. Some people have a genetic tendency to produce high anandamide levels, and they are incredibly blessed. But when they get out of whack, so does our ECS. This causes an ECS deficiency, which can bring about a range of debilitating conditions, including depression, stress, and you guessed it right — anxiety. Luckily, robust levels of anandamide in our bodies exhibit both anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties and naturally help to reduce anxiety. 

Since we’ve briefly learned that anandamide is inextricably linked to feelings of happiness, and a lack of it leads to anxiety and other health issues, how can we naturally increase this feel-good compound?

The Influence of CBD

Cannabis plants are made up of unique and incredibly therapeutic compounds, including CBD. As it turns out, when we consume CBD, it increases circulating levels of anandamide. Because of its relationship with anandamide, CBD could be an effective treatment for pain and mood and neurological disorders. But what is the specific potential in CBD for anxiety?

Brain-serotonin-neurotransmission plays a vital role in mood and involves 5-HT1A (serotonin) receptors, which play a role in correcting anxiety behaviours. Research indicates that the effect of CBD on these 5-HT1A receptors in the brain may be responsible for the anxiolytic effects of the cannabinoid.

Unlike THC, CBD itself has a low affinity for both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, the best part of CBD’s anxiolytic effect is that it acts as an agonist on the human 5-HT1A receptors in the brain, which has been shown to promote neurogenesis — the key to treating anxiety.

The therapeutic work of CBD inhibits the production of an enzyme called FAAH, which naturally deactivates anandamide. This then enables the increased binding of anandamide to CB1 and CB2 receptors, which has a calming effect and accounts for its ability to reduce anxiety and all symptoms associated including cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech performance.

 

A digital rendering of the FAAH enzyme
A digital rendering of the FAAH enzyme

All Things Considered…

Anandamide is a relatively recent discovery. However, from the scientific side of things, it seems to provide plenty of mental health benefits and therapeutic effects when working in conjunction with CBD, making it a potentially effective treatment for anxiety. 

While it may seem that we know a lot about cannabis already, we still only have a basic understanding of this complex plant’s inner-workings, and as with much of the research previously conducted, more significant and more in-depth analysis is required before we can make any firm conclusions. As such, there is now a growing demand and desire from patients with anxiety to thoroughly investigate and research the possibility that CBD may well provide a realistic alternative to conventional treatment methods for anxiety and other mental health disorders. 

While more studies published on CBD oil and CBD products for anxiety remain limited, a 2015 analysis suggests that CBD oil is a promising potential treatment for numerous forms of anxiety and behavioural health including social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  

The study concluded that “current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with a need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations”. Clearly, this conclusion adds further weight to the powerful testimony of those who have used CBD oil as an effective treatment for anxiety and depression.

Indeed, it is thanks to social media and the ability to share information freely online, that there is now a growing body of testimony from people who have experienced the therapeutic effects of CBD and CBD products. It is through this sharing of knowledge that the benefits of CBD oil now command more and more respect within medical circles. As a consequence, more CBD research and scientific evidence is now emerging,  particularly with respect to depression and anxiety. 

As more and more people wake up to the potential benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids, there is a surge in both expectation and excitement that CBD, medical marijuana and other forms of cannabis medicine could well provide long-term treatments for those who continue to suffer from depression and anxiety and other mental-health related disorders.

If you are looking to use CBD oil for anxiety it is important you seek medical advice and talk to your doctor or experienced health professionals before making any changes to your current medications. 

Post author
Mell Green
Mell Green is an enthusiast of all things cannabis and writes content that represents some of the best things that we as a people can strive for: good health and happiness.
See more from Mell Green

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