How Cannabis Works for Anxiety Disorders

Nobody likes the feeling of being anxious, but it actually is a normal feeling inherent in all of us. Anxiety is a critical adaptive response that helps humans cope with threats to our safety and general welfare. Anxiety helps us avoid potential threats and then can often help motivate us to take a wiser course of action.

So, we all suffer a little from anxiety. But many of us have difficulty managing the natural responses effectively and become maladaptive. Severe anxiety has negative effects on our jobs, our familial relationships and our ability to socialize.

In the United States alone, roughly 40 million adults – 18 percent of us – suffer from anxiety-related disorders. While many Americans leave this ailment untreated, those that do seek treatment tend to medicate with pharmaceuticals. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – such as Prozac and Zoloft – are common for a growing adult population. Pharmaceutical tranquilizers and benzodiazepines – such as Valium and Xanax – are also gaining traction to treat anxiety disorders.

But a growing body of research indicates that cannabis – specifically cannabidiol (CBD) – is effective in treating anxiety disorders. And unlike the Big Pharma pills, cannabis is not nearly as addictive.

CBD Oil For Anxiety And Depression

In the past six years or so, CBD has made headlines around the world as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders, ranging from mild to severe. Studies suggest that CBD counteracts many of THC’s adverse effects. Numerous animal studies and human studies indicate that CBD oil has powerful anti-anxiety properties. CBD oil is safe, non-toxic and may be beneficial to treat a number of anxiety-related disorders, including:

  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Social phobia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Mild to moderate depression

Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse – no fan of cannabis – says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress and alleviate depression. Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, like increased heart rate, also improved.

How does it work? Similar to SSRIs, CBD may boost signaling through serotonin receptors. In an animal study, Spanish researchers found that CBD may affect serotonin faster than SSRIs. According to the study, “the fast onset of antidepressant action of CBD and the simultaneous anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect would solve some of the main limitations of current antidepressant therapies.”

CBD For PTSD, SAD And Insomnia

Studies have also shown some benefits for other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD may also help treat anxiety-induced insomnia.

In 2011, a human study on CBD and its effects on SAD was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Participants were given either an oral dose of 400 milligrams of CBD or a placebo. The results showed that those who took the CBD dose experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.

Medical Marijuana – CBD vs THC

A Washington State University study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, suggested inhaling cannabis can significantly reduce short-term levels of anxiety. This was one of the first attempts by scientists to determine the impact of cannabis intake when smoked outside of a laboratory. The study was conducted to explore how differing concentrations of the chemical compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) can affect medicinal cannabis users’ sense of well-being.

The result? After just a couple of puffs, patients reported feeling less anxious. The study’s lead author, WSU assistant professor of psychology Carrie Cuttler, said the study went in a different direction than past efforts.

“Existing research on the effects of cannabis … are extremely rare and have almost exclusively been done with orally administered THC pills in a laboratory,” Cuttler said. “What is unique about our study is that we looked at actual inhaled cannabis by medical marijuana patients who were using it in the comfort of their own homes as opposed to a laboratory.

“A lot of consumers seem to be under the false assumption that more THC is always better. Our study shows that CBD is also a very important ingredient in cannabis and may augment some of the positive effects of THC.”

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