CBD for Anxiety

Briefing

In this article, we aim to teach you a deeper understanding of anxiety and CBD, what some of the critical research says about the relationship, and to spread the knowledge from the scientific community to those who are interested in CBD, or cannabidiol.

Mental Illness Seriousness

It goes without saying that all of us have more than enough of our fair share of anxiety. In fact, in the US, anxiety disorders stand as the most common mental illness, affecting well over 40 million adults 18 and older, or roughly 18.1% of the US population each year. What’s even more interesting is that, even though it holds as the most common, it’s also one of the most treatable mental illnesses, yet only 37% of those suffering receive treatment. 

The most common anxiety disorder is social anxiety disorder (SAD), and affects 15 million American adults, or 6.8% of the population. Again, alluding to the elongated process of getting treatment, according to a 2007 ADAA survey, over 35% of people affected by SAD took ten years or more to receive treatment, after the first signs of symptoms. Are we seeing a trend yet? Well, it’s pretty clear that in the US there is a problem with seeking help in time, and while this article isn’t going to cover the reasons for this, it is important to understand that the issue is there. 

The second most common anxiety disorder doesn’t fall behind much further. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which affects an estimated 7 million American adults, or 3.1% of the population. And for this form, only 43% of those who are suffering are receiving treatment. Following GAD is panic disorder (PD), which affects 6 million adults, or 2.7% of the population.

While there are many complex forms of anxiety, not to say that none of them are complex, eating disorders, mood disorders, and childhood anxiety disorders deserve their own time. For the scope of this article, CBD and the effects of generalized anxiety disorders will be explored. Because these are the most common forms of anxiety, as well as the fact that much of the research behind CBD and anxiety are formulated upon GAD as well as SAD.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is what’s been hitting this media’s attention for the past few years now, with interest spiking each day. Cannabidiol is just one of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Now, in case you have any confusion about what cannabis is, don’t assume right away that CBD is a product only derived from marijuana. In fact, in most states, it is still illegal to sell CBD products derived from marijuana. Instead, we are talking about CBD derived from hemp, a separate plant species from marijuana, but still part of the cannabis classification. 

Hemp is an amazing plant, and in fact, as of the 2018 Farm Bill, farmers are legally allowed to grow and sell this plant. A powerful cash crop that can be used for far more than just medicinal purposes. Hemp can be used for things like clothes, cooking, rope, and even fuel. CBD derived from hemp has one major difference, and this is the difference that attracts so many people to it. It won’t get you “high” like its counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, will.

THC, while also has some studied medical benefits, is the main psychoactive component in marijuana, and is the high inducing cannabinoid. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and will never induce a high. This is an attractive quality that CBD oil has. In case you are in a situation where you are working, driving, or just regularly tested, then you can still benefit from the medicinal properties that cannabis has. It’s obvious that many people want to skip out on the intoxication, and this is the window of opportunity.

CBD oil derived from hemp is completely legal, as the laws stand for these to have no more than .3% THC in them. This is why it’s important to look for brands that post their 3rd party lab results. This .3% limit is a fair one, as it is such a trace amount that an unnecessary, and even unhealthy amount of product would have to be consumed to leave a mark on a test (depending on the test and metabolism of the person.)

In the US, the CBD market is still in an odd place. There is little regulation for these products, which is why it’s important to find a trusted brand. However, it is evolving into a much more consumer-friendly market, as people are still worried about buying snake oil, or oil that surpasses the legal .3% THC limit. On May 31st, 2019, the FDA hosted a hearing dedicated to the expansive understanding of CBD, and proposed ways to deal with the little trust consumers have with some brands. The hearing provided substantial information to the FDA, which new regulation policies can form. The FDA was briefed over its anxiolytic properties, anticonvulsant properties as well as anti-inflammatory properties. The list goes on and on because of the number of people attending this hearing. At the same time, it established the SAFE banking act, which essentially allowed credible CBD brands to work with banks. This helped cut out some of the black markets that existed for them previously. 

Perhaps it’s obvious, but the research for CBD continues to grow. So, how does it work?

In our bodies, we have many areas that possess what are called endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors latch on to the spectrum of cannabinoids (there are over one hundred of them) and communicate to a part of our central nervous system, called the endocannabinoid system, or ENS. The ENS is part of the nervous system that is shown to metabolize the many different cannabinoids through CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors, when bound to cannabinoids, fill out certain bodily functions and help monitor things like blood pressure, and even blood sugar. The receptors aren’t only found in the brain, but as well as the digestive tract, liver, and pancreas. This is how research shows that CBD can help things like diabetes and IBS.

What’s even more interesting is that humans are not the only animals with an ENS. In fact, both vertebrates and invertebrates have this. Not only can we benefit from CBD, but our pets and animals can as well. 

What is Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural response to certain stress-inducing situations. Part of the “fight or flight” response, as it is an instinctive process that our brain poses to certain threats. This all starts from our CNS. The American Psychological Association characterizes anxiety as, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

Intrusive thoughts moving at light speed. Sounds familiar? At times, these thoughts can spiral out of control and we really lose touch with what is logical and what isn’t. Anxiety disorders, while all have specific characterizations, do share many of the same symptoms.

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

If we look into the chronic symptoms, then we see that people with anxiety have a much higher risk to develop insomnia and depression, even though in the majority cases they coexist. A study conducted on the rates of which anxiety disorders develop under a pre-existing condition of insomnia found a much higher risk for both depression and anxiety, according to a study by the Department of Psychiatry at Haukeland University Hospital. These symptoms all vary in severity, and can last for different periods of time. 

Why use CBD for Anxiety?

We are not about to claim that you should replace any medication with CBD. In fact, much of the research is done on the effects of CBD and other medications. It can alter the needed dose, for less or more, and can even change the effects of these medications. If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder and are taking prescription medications for it, consult your physician first if you think CBD could be a good addition to your treatment. 

Now, why would you want to try CBD before trying prescription medications?

Several accounts of users ranging from adolescence to adulthood have seen a statistically significant increase in mortality rate after using these drugs for seven years or more. SSRI medications are shown to cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Nausea

They have also been shown to damage the liver, and even fail in treating anxiety. The age-adjusted hazard ratio for mortality during the whole follow-up period for use of any study drug in the first year after recruitment was 3.46 (95% confidence interval 3.34 to 3.59) and 3.32 (3.19 to 3.45) after adjusting for other potential confounders (Scott Weich, et al. 2014).

The truth is is that there is a specific time frame in which higher degrees of medication are needed. What has become the later options are now becoming the first, and this is damaging anyone (especially the younger sufferers) mentally and physically. Prescription SSRIs and benzodiazepines do have their place, but not to be the first choice.

Is this to say there are absolutely no side effects to CBD? Of course not. CBD has to be administered in specific doses to uphold a certain effect. With higher doses, drowsiness can occur, as higher doses induce sleep. Some research says that CBD can actually increase pressure in your eyes for a small period, which is not helpful for glaucoma.

Fighting Anxiety with CBD

According to recent surveys, the main reason people use CBD is for its anxiolytic properties, followed by insomnia, which is followed by pain reduction. So, if CBD is so popular among those suffering from anxiety, how does it help?

As we mentioned before, there are two core bodily functions that we need to understand. Firstly, how does anxiety originate? Anxiety originates as a response that stems from our central nervous system (CNS.) Certain neuroreceptors are found to be out of balance, and these include serotonin, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and norepinephrine. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans have demonstrated what happens to us when we enter a state of anxiety. There is increased blood flow to the right parahippocampal region and a reduction in serotonin receptor binding. This reduction can cause an array of problems, anxiety being one of them. The main thing to take away from this is the apparent imbalance in neurotransmitters.

What gets interesting is the relationship that the ENS and CNS have together. As mentioned earlier, the ENS serves as a monitoring station, if you will. This station can read certain imbalances in the brain, and can help correct them through our CB1 and CB2 receptors. A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology found that, “Preclinical and clinical studies show CBD possesses a wide range of therapeutic properties, including antipsychotic, analgesic, neuroprotective, anticonvulsant, antiemetic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, and antineoplastic properties.” The process is described as, “The primary mechanism by which eCBs regulate synaptic function is retrograde signaling, wherein eCBs produced by depolarization of the postsynaptic neuron activate presynaptic CB1Rs, leading to inhibition of neurotransmitter release…” The PMC article ended with, “CBD’s anxiolytic actions appear to depend upon CB1Rs and 5-HT1ARs in several brain regions; however, investigation of additional receptor actions may reveal further mechanisms. Human experimental findings support preclinical findings, and also suggest a lack of anxiogenic effects, minimal sedative effects, and an excellent safety profile.” (Esther M. Blessing, et al., 2015) 

For instance, schizophrenics also have an imbalance with the neurotransmitters. A schizophrenics brain has too much dopamine and serotonin in some regions of the brain, which causes overstimulation among the senses. A review published at the NCBI found that cannabinoids can help regulate these with similar processes.

Anxiety Leads to other Conditions

Anxiety affects someone’s life in more ways than one. People with anxiety have a far higher risk of developing insomnia, depression, and these entail drastic changes for those suffering. 

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a disorder that greatly affects sleep. You may have wondered how CBD/medical marijuana helps those suffering from PTSD, and a major combatant would be against the night terrors. With night terrors comes hyperarousal, a chronic state of tension and worry. A disease that truly infects someone and their waking and sleeping life. With sleep problems, CBD has a lot of promising research. That not only can CBD help induce sleep, but it can also help maintain sleep. On top of this, CBD has been shown to inhibit dreams altogether. 

Depression also coincides with anxiety, and it’s unfortunately in a similar situation. Treatment isn’t often sought until the damage is to the extreme. Rather than seeking treatment early, people turn to prescription medications, which is at a stage where the depression and anxiety have developed to the stage where these medications are often necessary. Receptor (5-HT1A) uses CBD with an antidepressant effect, and increased levels of glutamate which is why medical cannabis is a fast-acting antidepressant in the medical field (Linge, Jimenez-Sanchez, Campa, Pilar-Cuellar, & Vidal, 2016).

Before You Go…

Anxiety may seem like it’s sweeping the nation. Numbers of disorders are increasing at an unprecedented rate, and if you are concerned with your mental health, please consult a doctor earlier rather than later. Prescription medications serve their purpose, but treatment is much broader than these medications. We aren’t saying to replace any medications you have, but with this new information, you now have an educated decision to make. Consider staying up to date with the new finding with CBD by visiting our Learn page! 

*Disclaimer* We are in no way saying CBD is a cure to any of the ailments listed. The purpose of this article was to give information. If you are considering trying CBD, consult your physician first!

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