For those who suffer from anxiety, finding an effective treatment can take some trial and error. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress, but for some, it can be overwhelming and even debilitating. Anxiety is also very common — a 2016 study found that one in 10 Canadians used health services annually for mood and anxiety disorders.
In recent years, cannabidiol — or CBD — has been touted as a potentially effective tool to battle gut-churning, restlessness, and the worries that often accompany bouts of anxiety.
Here’s what we know.
Does CBD help ease the symptoms of anxiety?
CBD is a non-impairing cannabinoid in cannabis. It’s often hailed as an effective remedy for those who suffer from anxiety.
“CBD has a number of properties that people seem to anecdotally report is useful for anxiety,” says Rand Teed, a Saskatchewan-based addictions counsellor and education and prevention specialist for drug and alcohol.
There are many causes of anxiety — it’s a natural physiological response to stress. But Teed says that sometimes there’s not enough dopamine flowing to the front part of the brain, and a person will have a harder time solving problems or decision-making. The ensuing frustration or confusion can lead to anxiety.
CBD works on the endocannabinoid system, which is an intricate system that runs through our brain and nervous system. The theory is that CBD helps facilitate connectivity between them. It’s also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and can help with pain relief.
So far, no research has effectively prove CBD’s effect on the interconnectivity between the brain and nervous system.
The research so far
A Brazilian study that focused on anxiety and CBD placed 57 men into four groups. Some received a placebo, while others received 150 ml, 300 ml or 600 ml of CBD. The participants were then instructed to learn and read a speech in front of a TV screen where they could see themselves. The people who got 300 ml of CBD reported a significant decrease in their perceived anxiety. The rest of the participants didn’t feel a significant anxiety relief.
“That’s a preliminary indicator that there’s some potential benefits for that,” says Teed.
Another study focused on CBD in anxiety and sleep, which treated 103 adult psychiatric patients with CBD, along with their usual treatment, while checking in on them monthly. Nearly all the participants were given 25 mg of CBD in capsule form. If the patient was mostly struggling with anxiety, they would be given a dose every morning after breakfast. If the complaints were sleep-related, the patient would receive their dose every evening after dinner. A handful of patients were given higher doses of CBD to deal with their specific history of trauma or mental disorders. The study found that anxiety scores dropped within the first month in most of the patients and stayed lower during the rest of the study. Sleep scores also improved within the first month, but fluctuated over time. The study concluded that CBD could be beneficial to anxiety-related disorders but more controlled clinical studies were needed.
And another study examined current available evidence from preclinical, human experimental, clinical and epidemiological analyses focused on CBD and anxiety-related disorders. It concluded that overall, current evidence suggests CBD has significant potential as a form of treatment for a number of anxiety disorders. However, more research was needed of chronic and therapeutic effects on patients.
What’s to come
So, what steps should someone who suffers from anxiety take if they want to explore CBD?
Talk to a doctor to explore your product and treatment plan options. While ‘go low and start low’ is the general rule of thumb when using any cannabis products for the first time, CBD has fairly low risks associated with its consumption. That said, it’s important to tell a healthcare professional about any potential contraindications or issues associated with your body and mind.