While most people are aware of the psychotropic effects of cannabis (the “high,” if you will, which is caused by THC) many people aren’t aware that there’s another chemical in cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) that has none of those effects and some other effects of its own. CBD has a calming effect on the body and the brain, so this means CBD has anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety properties. How does this natural chemical in hemp oil help calm anxiety? Well, there are a lot of neuroscientists looking at what CBD does in the brain, and their research may be the key to unlocking why CBD chills you out. With more research into the anti-anxiety properties of CBD, hemp oil therapies for anxiety can be developed.
Let’s look at how psychiatrists have traditionally dealt with anxiety so that we can better understand the anxiolytic properties of CBD. First, it’s important to understand the actions of all the anti-anxiety drugs doctors currently prescribe. Then we’ll look at the current scientific research into mental illness and cannabidiol to see if a new CBD anxiolytic treatment might be on the horizon.
Traditional Anxiolytic Drugs
If you’ve never dealt with anxiety or been prescribed anti-anxiety drugs, you may not know what they are or how they work to calm your anxiety. Anxiolytics are a type of drug used to treat anxiety related disorders, from mild social anxiety to severe anxiety problems with other mental illness present. Most anxiolytic drugs work quickly and offer instant relief. However, they can lead to addiction, which is why they’re usually only recommended for short-term use. The other thing about typical anxiolytic drugs is that they’re not recommended for people with a history of substance addictions or abuse because they can be habit forming.
The most commonly known anxiolytic drugs:
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- diazepam (Valium)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
Problems with Traditional Anti-Anxiety Drugs Lead to CBD Research
The first problem with traditional anxiolytic drugs is that they have severe side effects, including weight gain. Many anti-anxiety drugs can be habit forming as well, and many have the potential to cause withdrawal symptoms. These drugs can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and a lowered blood pressure. When ending treatment with prescribed anxiolytic drugs, you can potentially develop withdrawal symptoms — including seizures. It’s best to taper off anti-anxiety drugs slowly.
A funny fact is that CBD had been shown to help addicts have an easier recovery and avoid relapses. The same could be said for anxiolytic drugs. If you need to wean yourself off them, CBD hemp oil can help ease cravings as well as bring down your anxiety. Let’s look at the current research on how CBD can calm anxiety.
Cannabidiol Studies Show Anxiolytic Properties
It used to be, when you wanted to feel good, you went for cannabis — the amount of CBD and THC didn’t matter because users weren’t looking for one particular chemical over the other. On the streets, users are looking for cannabis that won’t completely knock them down all afternoon. They’re looking for the effects of cannabidiol without the heavy amount of THC. Basically, they’re looking for something to help other symptoms, such as anxiety. New studies are showing that the real superstar of cannabis is the cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is the cannabis compound that has the great medical benefits, but doesn’t make people feel “stoned.” Cannabidiol can even counteract the psychoactivity of THC. In recent studies, CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder and, when using animal models of anxiety, CBD clearly suggests an anxiolytic-like effect.
In another study, volunteers with traits leaning towards paranoia were given either oral cannabidiol or a placebo about two hours before entering a virtual-reality scenario. The metrics observed during the session were salivary concentration, heart rate, and blood pressure. Unfortunately, in this setting, cannabidiol had no impact on any of the effects. Because the test group was small and it contrasted with previous studies, a larger sample would be required for a more definitive study. However, other studies with social anxiety have offered better results that have led to more interest in CBD hemp oil as an anxiolytic treatment.
Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Anxiety
Some medical professionals suggest that having anxiety is a risk factor for recreational marijuana use, but that is due to high THC content in many strains of recreational-use cannabis. While THC can make anxiety worse, cannabidiol oil (CBD) can be used to treat anxiety because of those anxiolytic effects. Cannabidiol is quickly becoming a viable alternative for traditional anxiolytic drugs. Unlike traditional anxiolytics, cannabidiol gives the benefits of calming neural activity without the side effects like addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Cannabidiol has been experimented with in various studies to treat a myriad of anxiety problems. In one study, brain scans of people with social anxiety disorder showed changes in blood flow to the parts of the brain connected with anxiety. It has been found that cannabidiol can reduce general social anxiety as well (as in people who are not officially diagnosed with SAD). The limited studies on cannabidiol conclude that CBD oil is a hopeful treatment for plenty of anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the long-term data on CBD oil is limited. Research is confident of cannabidiol for short-term anxiety, but we don’t know about the long term effects.
More CBD and Medical Cannabis Research is Key
Recreational and medicinal marijuana isn’t legal in all fifty states, but CBD oil is and it’s very easy to take. The most common ways to take cannabidiol are as an oil under the user’s tongue, baked in food, or massaged in the skin; or as a pill, taken once or twice a day, depending on the effect cannabidiol has on anxiety symptoms. Since we don’t have the research that shows exactly how CBD works, we can’t yet develop really good drugs that will work for the majority of anxiety sufferers.