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    Anxiety & CBD: Study finds CBD “reduced anxiety to a level equal to that of diazepam”

    Anxiety and other related issues affect many people at various points in their lives, and for some, it is a life-long struggle. CBD oil products are used by many people in their battles with anxiety, whether big or small. By using scientific research, this article will provide a basic overview of evidence showing how CBD can influence anxiety.

    So, can CBD oil help treating anxiety? Let’s look at the possible causes of anxiety.

    The feeling of anxiety is a physiological response of the brain to the body perceiving a threat to its survival. In these situations, the body is in a state of alertness as a defence mechanism. Historically through our evolution, these feelings would be brought about through an urgent need to find food, the threat of attack, or other environmental factors. In the modern world, alongside these historical factors, there are multitudes of societal and interpersonal issues that can cause anxiety. Demanding work environments and financial problems are only two of many examples which can cause this perceived threat to survival. 

    States of prolonged untreated anxiety can lead to long term mental health issues in those people suffering from it. These issues can lead to the breakdown of relationships and other essential structures within our lives, which in turn can increase anxiety. For many people this can become a cyclical problem that is difficult to break, and for others it can turn into a clinical, life-defining obstacle.

    Life events such as the loss of a loved one, or global events like the Coronavirus outbreak of 2020, can lead to anxiety through fear and isolation. These issues can then directly affect our short and long term mental health. One reason CBD has seen such interest in recent times is that anxiety, in its various levels and forms, has become such a large part of modern life for a lot of people.

    Most drugs that seek to treat this issue, such as benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants, are associated with very limited success and come with side effects that are often very unpleasant. Some lead to dependency, which in turn will exacerbate the mental health issues themselves. 

    The research paper which guided the writing of this post compiled information and data from 49 individual studies that investigated the effects and functions of CBD on anxiety. It is from this information that we can give a brief overview of how CBD could function in this respect.

    CBD can interact with receptors within our brains that control the fear of survival response outlined earlier in this post. It also interacts with receptors to exhibit antipsychotic, analgesic, neuroprotective, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties. 

    CBD not only interacts with cannabinoid-specific receptors, but it also interacts with receptors generally associated with serotonin, otherwise known as ‘the happy chemical’. These receptors have significant influence over our sense of happiness and wellbeing. 

    The anti-anxiety effect of CBD has been demonstrated in several studies.

    For example, in 2011, a study by researchers Bergamaschi and Queiroz was conducted into the impact of CBD on anxiety induced by public speaking. It found that CBD reduced anxiety in healthy, socially phobic test subjects to a level equal to that of diazepam. Another study, in 2011, by researchers Granjeiro and Gomes found that regularly administered CBD significantly reduced the cardiovascular symptoms of stress. These included reducing acute heart rate and blood pressure. 

    If we fast forward from these initial studies to the present day, there are at least three ongoing clinical trials into the use of CBD to treat anxiety and related disorders. These include an investigation by Van der Flier et al. in 2019 into the impact of 300mg doses of CBD (taken orally once a week, for two months) on severe phobias. There is an ongoing advanced phase 3 clinical trial which explores the impact of CBD doses (ranging between 200mg and 800mg, taken daily in capsule form) on the treatment of panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia.

    What makes these current studies so important, and a significant step forward from the first studies outlined in 2011, is that they are using actual patients suffering conditions. The initial studies involved healthy volunteers and didn’t use control groups or placebos. They were not designed to establish ‘dose–response’ information that could guide treatment plans.

    There are a multitude of studies that demonstrate the effects of CBD on the physiological responses of the body that cause anxiety. If you would like to understand this process in further scientific detail, you can explore these texts at length by following the links in the introduction.

    In conclusion, evidence shows CBD has the potential to reduce anxiety, stress, and other neuropsychological disorders (like PTSD) that have anxiety as the main symptom. It does this through clearly demonstrated interaction with receptors in various parts of the brain. These interactions rely on multi-stage processes involving several enzymes and proteins that trigger and also break down these multiple compounds. 

    This evidence offers hope for many people who suffer from anxiety in one of its many forms. It should also act as encouragement for further extensive research into this topic.

    This article is based on the work of Esther M. Blessing, Maria M. Steenkamp, Jorge Manzanares and Charles R. Marmar and their article ‘Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders’.

    GEORGE WILKINS
    Author

    ŽELJKO PERDIJA M.D.
    Reviewer


    Related reading:
    You might be wondering whether CBD could help you directly treat the coronavirus. For more information please read our post Can CBD oil treat Coronavirus symptoms?

    If you would like detailed information about scientific research into the potential effects of CBD on viral and infectious diseases, please read our science digest CBD and Viruses: Can cannabinol help treat viral infections?

    Please also check out the CBD user stories on this blog, some of them about how others are approaching their experience of anxiety. 


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