There is clear pre-clinical and moderate clinical evidence that CBD can help overcome anxiety, without the unpleasant side effects that are characteristic of pharmacological drugs. It calms nerves, without causing drowsiness.
Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder, though it often remains undiagnosed. It is undoubtedly debilitating. Untreated anxiety increases the risk of various other diseases. Researchers estimate that about one-fifth of people are likely to have an attack of panic and anxiety during one year.
Understanding anxiety, before seeking a remedy
Anxiety is a common phenomenon, where one struggles with overwhelming or crippling fear or worry. Worry is normal and not a disease, but if it becomes so strong that it starts interfering with daily activities, then it is a pathology, an illness. Anxiety causes fears and nervousness, and people prone to anxiety may get worried or irritated by seemingly small things. One may even start worrying about imaginative problems.
This extreme and irrational fear or worry is called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It may cause panic attacks. Some may suffer from more specific types of anxieties, like social anxiety disorder (SAD), phobias, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Anxiety frequently has somatic symptoms like altered sleep patterns, leg cramps, irritable bowel syndrome. It may also lead to the worsening of specific ailments like autoimmune disorders.
Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety than men.
CBD may help get rid of anxiety in various ways
The good thing about CBD is its broad spectrum of activity. Moreover, it is available without a prescription. For those living with milder forms of anxiety, visiting a doctor on each episode of panic may not be realistic.
Researchers are still trying to identify the underlying mechanism through which CBD helps people. To date, they have identified three ways in which CBD seems to calm nerves, prevent panic attacks and influence behaviour.
The first way in which CBD may help is due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system, specifically by influencing CB1R receptors. These receptors are mainly present in nerve cells and are in abundance in various parts of the brain. CB1R receptor may alter the release of multiple neurotransmitters in response to stress. CB1R system plays an essential role in stress response and protects against its adverse effects.
Researchers are also studying the role of CB1R receptors and their dysfunction in anxiety. They are even trying to come up with other synthetic drugs that may act on these receptors, and thus help control anxiety effectively.
Although unlike THC, CBD is not a potent agonist of CB1R receptors, it seems to influence them in many ways. Its mild action on these receptors may also explain the ability of CBD to relieve anxiety without causing severe side effects or behaviour changes.
Another way in which CBD may help is due to its effect on less understood TRPV1 receptors.
The role of 5-HT1A Receptors (sub-type of serotonin receptors) is well recognised in psychiatry. They are often targeted by various drugs used to treat mood disorders. Buspirone is one of the approved medications for generalised anxiety, that works by acting on these receptors. It seems that CBD is also 5-HT1A agonist.
Scientific evidence in favour of CBD as an anti-anxiety agent
Before diving deep into the subject, it is vital to understand that CBD to date is not a medically approved treatment for psychiatric disorders. However, the influence of cannabinoids on human psychology is established beyond doubt. This article looks further into the quality of evidence and what to expect from CBD when living with anxiety.
The good thing about CBD is that it may help with different types of anxiety. Each person living with anxiety is different. Some have fears of the unknown, while others have behavioural changes caused by physical or mental trauma, and so on. People living with anxiety have different symptoms, and that is why it remains undiagnosed in many cases. Moreover, many individuals can mask their symptoms.
Studies show that CBD may help with one of the common types of anxiety: Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). In one of the clinical trials, 24 individuals diagnosed with SAD were randomly divided into two groups, and one group received 600 mg of CBD daily. Another group was given a placebo. The study found that those treated with CBD reported significant benefits. Moreover, CBD treatment did not cause changes in mental abilities, alertness, or any other discomfort.
CBD is also suitable for those living with PTSD, as it modulates memories and reduces nightmares. It may help people living with PTSD sleep better and wake up with a better mood the next day.
In medical science, systemic reviews have a particular place as they are accepted as a gold standard for understanding the efficacy of any intervention. Researchers carry out systemic reviews by combining the data from numerous studies done to date, with all the studies selected carefully. In one such systemic review published in 2019, the researcher found that there is no doubt that CBD is a promising alternative therapy for anxiety. They included a total of eight high-quality studies in their review.
The same systemic review also mentioned that although CBD is good for anxiety, the lack of standardisation in the industry means that selecting the right product and dose may be a challenge.
To conclude, anxiety is a common mental health disorder. Most people are likely to have anxiety at one time in their life. Seeking medical attention is not an option for many for various reasons, and some pharmaceutical drugs used to treat anxiety are known for negative side effects and altering of mental alertness. CBD may be a viable alternative treatment as it is less likely to cause any severe intolerance or side effects.