Avid cannabis users know the different strains of cannabis as indica, sativa, or hybrid. If you’re in a location that offers recreational marijuana, you’ve probably been asked which type of cannabis you want based on this model. However, the real question that should be asked is if you’re looking to get “high,” or if you’re looking for something that will make you feel better while you go about your day. If you’re looking to get high, you’re looking for cannabis that’s high in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. If you’re looking to get rid of your back pain and generalized anxiety, you’re looking for high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD.
You can find high-CBD strains of cannabis or buy completely legal CBD hemp oil that’s 99.99% CBD. Cannabidiol also has the potential to be used as an antidepressant or as an anxiolytic drug, meaning it’s anti-anxiety. Let’s look at the current science on how CBD can be an antidepressant or anti-anxiety, and how you can use hemp oil as a treatment.
Cannabidiol as an Antidepressant or Anxiolytic
Before we start talking about what cannabidiol (CBD) can do, let’s talk about what traditional antidepressants and anxiolytic drugs do in our bodies.
What Are Antidepressants and Anxiolytics?
Antidepressants are medications given to patients to alleviate the symptoms of depressive disorders. They work by correcting the chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. In normal cell function, neurotransmitters, like serotonin, send signals from cell to cell. These neurotransmitters are located at the ends of sending cells and they pass the message along before being reabsorbed by the sending cell. In people with depression, there’s usually a problem with the neurotransmitters. Either the neurotransmitters aren’t getting the signal properly, there are not as many as there should be, or they’re being reabsorbed too soon. Antidepressants take a few weeks to really get started and because of this, compliance is difficult. Patients don’t like having to wait several weeks for results and may drop out of the treatment or find it difficult to stick to a treatment regime.
Anxiolytic drugs reduce stress levels and anxiety by addressing the neurochemical cause of the anxiety. Anxiolytic drugs also improve brain cognition, memory, and reasoning skills. GABA is the principal anti-anxiety neurotransmitter and it’s produced by glutamate. When GABA starts having issues, you start having anxiety. When GABA levels are low, the brain’s nerve cells start overreacting, transmitting signals quicker than they should. This presents as nervousness, seizures, panic attacks, and even compulsive behaviors. Anxiolytic drugs work with GABA to fix this problem.
Testing CBD in the Lab to See the Effects
There are three experiments that scientists use to test antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs in animal models. There is the forced swimming test (FST), elevated plus maze (EPM), and Vogel conflict test (VCT). It is important to observe the animal naturally before administering the potential drug to see all the possibilities of success, so scientists do this so that they can check the dose of the experimental drug, in this case CBD.
- The forced swimming test is a behavior test used for evaluating the efficiency of antidepressant drugs. This six minute test is given to rodents and is used because it’s a short and simple test to give. It is straightforward and requires very little specialized equipment. The observation portion of the test is only the last four minutes, because most mice are very active in the beginning and the effects can be obscured. The mouse’s total amount of mobility time is subtracted from the whole test time, which gives you the mouse’s immobility time. This number is compared with mice using antidepressant drugs and mice that have been genetically modified versus wild counterparts. This test isn’t a full spectrum test because the behavior outcomes are one dimensional — they can only indicate the effectiveness of an antidepressant drug, not differentiate between the types of drugs.
- The elevated plus maze is another widely used test. This test measures the effects of anti-anxiety medicine on rodents. In this test, rats are placed at a junction with four directions to go, facing one direction. Two of the directions have high walls, and two of the directions are open — this is to play on a rodent’s natural desire to burrow and hide. The entries and duration in each arm are recorded by a video system and by a human observer for five minutes. A normal rodent has a higher number of entries to the closed arms versus the open arms because of their natural desire for safety. In rodents that have been given anti-anxiety medicine, the entries become level.
- The Vogel conflict test is a quick test to screen potential anxiolytic properties of drugs. In the procedure, a drinking behavior is punished by a mild electrical shock. As a result, the rodents stop drinking water. Then the potential anxiolytic drugs reestablish drinking responses. The original method of this test started with two days of water deprivation and then a mild shock every 20 licks once water was reintroduced. Now it’s just 18 hours of deprivation or low water consumption over a period of days. The duration of the electrical-shock portion of the test only five minutes. Before the anxiolytic drug is administered, the electrical shock decreases the amount of times the animal goes for water. After the drug is administered, the amount of times increases despite still being punished.
CBD Results From These Tests
In all three of these complex tests, the responses by the rodents proved that CBD exhibited anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. This means that cannabidiol tested similarly to the antidepressant drugs and anti-anxiety drugs currently on the market. This is exciting news for scientists and psychiatric professionals, as it opens up a whole new world of CBD hemp oil treatment options for depression and anxiety.
CBD Treatment for Depression and Anxiety
The exciting results from these thorough mice studies show that cannabidiol can be used to help patients with depression and anxiety. Many of the traditional antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs currently on the market have side effects ranging from weight gain to insomnia. These studies show that CBD might be an alternative treatment without these side effects. Other studies have also shown that CBD can even alleviate these side effects! CBD hemp oil is a treatment that can help depression and anxiety, as well as nausea, insomnia, and other ailments.