There is a lot of controversy when it comes to cannabis and its effect on anxiety. While some testify to cannabis’ power to alleviate anxiety, there are others who say it makes it worse. A lot of the time, these contradictory effects can be attributed to the fact that different cannabinoids do different things. For example, those with anxiety may experience worsened symptoms after using high THC cannabis. However, after using CBD, their symptoms of anxiety are actually reduced.
Over 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety, many of whom resort to pharmaceutical medication to treat their symptoms. Many of these drugs come with serious potential for abuse as well as a myriad of other negative side effects. On top of that, many people simply do not experience relief from using pharmaceutical anxiety treatments. There is a desperate need for alternative, natural and ethical medication for anxiety sufferers. This is exactly why CBD is being researched for its antipsychotic and anxiolytic effects.
Aside from being a potential treatment for anxiety, CBD is completely natural and has almost no known side effects. There is basically no potential for addiction or abuse and offers a very real, natural treatment for those who suffer from anxiety.
How does CBD work for anxiety?
Scientists have proposed many different mechanisms of action by which CBD alleviates the symptoms of anxiety. However, it’s important to understand that most of these studies are preclinical and have only been tested on animals. Until strict rules loosen about researching cannabis on humans, we are still resting what we know on hypotheses.
For the last three decades, the medical world’s treatment of anxiety has rested in the theory that serotonin levels are responsible for depression and anxiety. Even pharmaceutical anxiety medicine such as Zoloft is based in this principle. It’s important to realise that not all the research supports that serotonin deficiency is responsible for anxiety or depression. In fact, a lot of research contradicts this.
With all of that being said, scientists speculate that the way CBD reduces anxiety is through the activation of the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor. By enhancing the activity of this receptor, serotonin is able to be used better and more efficiently by the brain, hypothetically reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Other notable research in the area is done by Dr Ethan Russo, who hypothesizes that at the root of many illnesses is a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. Russo argues that treatment-resistant conditions like anxiety, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are caused by a lack of endogenous cannabinoids circulating in the brain and body. This is another suggestion as to how CBD may affect the endocannabinoid system and cause anxiolytic effects.
How does CBD stack up against pharmaceutical medication?
The next big question that a sufferer of anxiety might ask is: why try CBD when big pharma has prescribed treatments for anxiety? It’s a good question, too. But before we jump right into it, it’s important to realize that pharmaceutical medication for anxiety still rests in a hypothesis that isn’t even scientifically valid. So that’s also one reason to, at the very least, give the natural alternative a shot.
Pharmaceutical medications and their risks
The biggest objection many people have to pharmaceutical medication for anxiety is in the risks associated with taking them. Let’s have a look at Zoloft, for example, which is prescribed to those who experience panic attacks, social anxiety disorder among other forms of anxiety. For the record, it’s also prescribed to those who have depression. This drug was prescribed over 37 million times by American doctors in 2016 alone.
Some of the common side effects experienced from Zoloft users include:
- Sleep disturbances (both drowsiness and difficulty getting to sleep)
- Impotence or decreased sex drive
- Shaking or tremors
- Indigestion, nausea and diarrhea
However, what’s most alarming about Zoloft or other serotonin reuptake inhibitors (the class of drug that Zoloft is categorized by) is that they can lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome. In all fairness, this potentially lethal side effect generally only occurs when a serotonin reuptake inhibitor is taken in conjunction with another drug which affects serotonin release. Nonetheless, it is a proposed risk of taking any drug in this class of drugs. Overall, this drug induced serotonin syndrome has led to over 100 deaths in the USA.
CBD is natural and has almost no known side effects
The side effects profile of CBD is slim to none, which is one reason why anxiety sufferers might choose to try CBD instead of taking pharmaceutical drugs. In fact, the only known side effects are drowsiness and upset stomach/diarrhea. And with that in mind, these side effects are generally only observed for a short amount of time and after large doses. They usually subside within hours and can be mitigated all together by decreasing the dose.
On top of all of that, CBD oil is completely natural. It is not synthesized in a laboratory. In fact, it is not even refined in the conventional sense that we think of refined pharmaceutical drugs. There are, of course, refined CBD products such as CBD isolate. But if you wish to steer clear of refined substances, a full-spectrum CBD oil does the trick.
Finally, CBD is not addictive. There are no withdrawal symptoms to worry about after ceasing CBD use. There is virtually no mental health risk associated with CBD use, as far as modern research has led us. These are fundamentally the reasons why somebody might pause before taking Zoloft, but jump at the idea of giving CBD a shot.
It’s still just the beginning
There is still a long way to go when it comes to the research on CBD oil and its effect on anxiety. There are still many clinical trials that need to be done before anything can be stated conclusively. However, it is interesting that pharmaceutical medicine is sometimes still considered more credible, despite the fact that it also rests in hypotheses for which there are many contradictory opinions.
We still don’t really understand what causes anxiety. However, CBD’s approach to the problem is more naturopathic than pharmaceutical. And in an age where we are beginning to understand the repercussions of the pharmaceutical paradigm, CBD begs us to take the naturopathic approach. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD is beneficial to those with anxiety, especially for the fact that in the very least, it does the least possible harm.