Research papers on CBD & Anxiety: Pros & Cons [Simplified]

Anxiousness is part of the body’s natural fight-or-flight mechanism to deal with an impending crisis or danger.

But when anxiety disorders become chronic or recur randomly without any real sense of danger, gripping a person with panic attacks with even the slightest provocation, manifesting physically with chest pain, breathlessness, headaches, and sweating – there is a reason to worry. We may be dealing with what is known as an anxiety disorder.

Such conditions may continue for months and be accompanied by unexplained paranoia, sudden bouts of depression, and uncontrollable mood swings. These symptoms may not only be overwhelming, but also debilitating.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression affects 6% and anxiety affects 18% of the population in the US each year (1).

For a person, suffering from such symptoms, it is never easy to decide what line of treatment is best for him or her. Conventional methods of treatment usually focus on therapy, medication, and self-management of different sorts. Medication usually include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, beta blockers and SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) – all of which come with adverse side-effects.

But in recent times, several herbal and other alternatives, non-pharmaceutical solutions for treating anxiety disorders are gaining popularity, mostly due to their almost negligible side effects.

Case in point: CBD oil (2).

In spite of the controversies surrounding marijuana and its extraction, as well as the question of its legality, cannabidiol oil (+), a non-psychoactive compound (does not give a “high”), is the focus of much research among the scientific community. And most of them have yielded positive results for people keen on pursuing this path for managing their anxiety issues.

CBD – A potential treatment for Anxiety Disorder

If you are looking to use CBD oil to manage your anxiety – be it Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), social anxiety, specific phobias,Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Post-Traumatic Disorder – you need to focus exclusively on research on cannabidiol oil, rather than generalized studies of medical marijuana.

The difference lies in the fact that medical marijuana contains higher traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which CBD oil does not have, making it one product that has hardly any side effects, particularly concerning those with anxiety disorders. On the other hand, THC, a psychoactive compound, tends to make patients with anxiety issues more vulnerable, in fact, aggravates their symptoms (3).

Research citing positive effects on anxiety disorder patients

However, the research only supported the role of CBD oil as a short-term cure for patients living with anxiety disorders. There is still no evidence, whatsoever, of any long-term benefits of CBD on such patients. There is also no clinical data available on its effect on people using this drug over a long period of time.

There is a lot of research material available in the public domain, displaying the positive impact of CBD oil on people suffering from anxiety disorders. However, their effects vary from patient to patient, and the dosage required for any patient depends solely on that individual’s tolerance level.

Notwithstanding its benefits, there are some safety concerns that need to be taken into account before opting for this alternative method of treating anxiety and depression.

When is CBD a bad fit for anxiety disorder patients?

Cannabis products, other than CBD oil, often have an adverse effect on people suffering from anxiety issues. In fact, it has been seen that frequent cannabis users often suffer from anxiety disorders. Similarly, a very high number of patients with anxiety disorders happen to be cannabis abusers (9).

Reason: The presence of THC – a cannabinoid*, responsible for mind-altering effects among humans and animals alike. This does, in fact, cause addiction and dependence among users.

However, research specifically on CBD oil or cannabidiol has not found any such negative side-effects on people suffering from anxiety or depression. Studies on test subjects have only shown a calming effect on their nerves. This could mean that CBD oil has the potential to become a preferred alternative treatment for anxiety disorders among patients who are resistant to other anti-anxiety drugs.

However, CBD oil available in the market, do contain some amount of THC (permissible amount of 0.3% or below is present in industrial grade CBD oil). Some patients may react badly to it. There is no research or study that can definitively conclude that all humans are immune to THC’s effects if its presence is below 0.3%.

Research-based evidence against the use of CBD for anxiety

The absence of side-effects alone cannot be grounds for its recommendation for people with anxiety disorder. If the treatment does not improve the patient’s condition, it is of no use to them.

If you still wish to use it as an alternative treatment method for anxiety, consult a doctor who has experience with CBD oil to find out the right dosage for you.

An Overview

Although research into the therapeutic effects of CBD is gaining momentum, most benefits of CBD are not backed by clinical data. Cannabidiol’s role as a treatment for anxiety disorders is still unclear, in the absence of long-term studies to determine its benefits and risks.

For people with anxiety who haven’t got any relief from other treatments, CBD oil may seem to offer a potential alternative solution. However, if you are considering using it (and if it is legal where you live), consult a doctor who is familiar with CBD oil as a treatment option and find out if it is suitable for your condition.

+ Extracted from Cannabis Sativa, of which marijuana and hemp are sub-species

* A cannabinoid is a class of diverse chemical compounds that target the body’s endocannabinoid system, altering neurotransmitter release in the brain.