Early research shows promising signs that a product made from cannabis known as cannabidiol (CBD) oil may help relieve anxiety. CBD is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in marijuana and hemp plants. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another type of cannabinoid, CBD doesn’t cause any feelings of intoxication or the “high” you may associate with cannabis. Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD oil for anxiety, and whether it could be a treatment option for you.
CBD oil is thought to work with a brain receptor called CB1. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli and help your cells respond.
The exact way CBD affects CB1 is not fully understood. However, it’s thought that it alters serotonin signals. Serotonin is one of your body’s chemicals and plays a role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are common in depression. Not having enough serotonin can also cause anxiety in some people.
The conventional treatment for low serotonin is prescription selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Zoloft and Prozac are both SSRIs. CBD, for some people, may be an alternative to SSRIs for anxiety management. However, you should talk to your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan.
Several studies point to the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety. For generalized anxiety, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animal studies. Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, like increased heart rate, also improved.
In 2011, a human study on CBD and its effects on SAD was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Participants were given either an oral dose of 400 milligrams of CBD or a placebo. The results showed that those who took the CBD dose experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.
On the other hand, a 2017 comprehensive review of CBD studies in psychiatric disorders found inconclusive results. According to the authors, there isn’t enough evidence to claim CBD as a treatment for depression. However, the authors do note positive results for anxiety disorders. Based on their review, more human tests are needed to better understand how it works, what ideal dosages should be, and if there are potential side effects or hazards.
CBD has also been studied in other neurological disorders. A 2016 study found some antipsychotic benefits of CBD in schizophrenia. The authors indicated a preference for CBD over antipsychotic drugs, which are known to cause significant debilitating side effects.
CBD is generally considered safe. However, some people who take CBD may experience side effects, including:
- gastrointestinal discomfort
- sleeping difficulties
- mood changes
- dry mouth
You shouldn’t stop taking any medications you’re already using without talking to your doctor first. Using CBD oil may help your anxiety, but you could also experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking your prescription medications. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
CBD oil isn’t legal everywhere. In the United States, some states allow it for only specific medical purposes and some don’t. You may need to get a license from your doctor to be able to use CBD. If cannabis is approved for medical use in your state, you may be able to purchase CBD oil online or in special cannabis stores or clinics. As research on CBD continues, more states may consider the legalization of cannabis products.