Anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes brain changes which leads to overthinking, rumination, worst-case scenario thinking and other debilitating thought processes that affect the quality of life. Unfortunately, conventional treatments for anxiety have varied success, with many patients finding medication to be ineffective, and even unhelpful, in that it lumbers them with other side effects.
But new research suggests that the answer to anxiety may come from a most unexpected source: cannabis, and specifically, a compound called cannabidiol (CBD), which is renowned for being neither psychoactive nor intoxicating.
This post will focus on what anxiety is and the effects that different types of the disorder have, before looking at how to best treat the condition with CBD.
For those who have never experienced anxiety, the condition can be very difficult to understand as it affects people in peculiar ways. For example, those with social anxiety may find general chit-chat painstaking, as they worry that a “wrong” comment could make them look stupid in front of others, something which is normally the result of low self-esteem and self-confidence, too.
Rumination may cause somebody to dwell on the same issue for hours, days, weeks or even longer, depending on what it is. Sometimes deep thinking is beneficial, but when that thinking revolves around distress, the brain becomes hardwired to continue regurgitating these repetitive thoughts. For an anxiety sufferer, this type of paralysis by analysis can infiltrate several aspects of life and make general functioning exceedingly difficult.
Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with stress, and worst-case scenario thinking is one sure way to exacerbate the latter. This kind of thinking is precisely what it sounds like – when faced with a situation with multiple possible outcomes, a person with anxiety automatically assumes that the worst of those are inevitable, and the body responds by becoming stressed. These thoughts are often irrational, but in the event that the worst does happen, this only reaffirms the initial fears. However, this is why it’s so important to have the ability to consider each situation independently from one another.
What is CBD?
CBD is a special compound, known as a cannabinoid, with a chemical composition that makes it compatible with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS controls immune system response, mood and several other variables that are highly influential over physical and mental health. Regulation of the ECS is essential for homeostasis throughout the body, a state of equilibrium. CBD can manage ECS imbalances by blocking enzymes, increasing or reducing the binding affinity of receptors (both cannabinoid receptors and receptors outside of the ECS), and by adjusting signaling.
Research has shown that the ECS can become dysfunctional when the body experiences a deficit in gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that works to prevent hyperactivity in the brain, which among many things, can worsen anxiety. The excess firing of brain signals caused by an overactive brain is prone to causing anxiety, due to the increased number of thoughts – many of them unnecessary – created by the brain.
How CBD helps with anxiety
CBD indirectly increases levels of active GABA in the brain by boosting the binding affinity of GABA-A receptors. This subtle change allows more GABA to link with GABA-A receptors, and the enhanced expression of these neurotransmitters limits excitation in the brain, alleviating anxiety in the process.
Furthermore, studies have revealed that CBD reduces stress by inhibiting cortisol, a stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, stimuli are easily able to trigger the body into a “fight-or-flight” response, which heightens anxiety levels.
While there are not yet stacks of research on CBD and anxiety, in comparison to the compound’s effect on epilepsy, for example, there was an intriguing study conducted in Italy back in 2011 which demonstrated CBD’s efficaciousness against social anxiety. Had CBD been better-known in the media at the time, it would have undoubtedly received more coverage.
The investigation subjected anxiety patients who had never previously tried treating their condition to a public speaking test – one group was given a potent 600mg dose of CBD, with the other group getting a placebo. The experiment was placebo-controlled, double-blind and randomized to improve the legitimacy of the results. The batch treated with CBD gave markedly better speaking performances than those on the placebo, indicating that the benefits of the cannabinoid were more than just mental.
Best CBD products for coping with anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety are typically acute, and therefore most of the time requires a treatment that gives quick relief. This can be found with CBD vape oil and e-liquid. Vaporizing is more efficient than orally-administered medication because of the rapid speed of delivery that cannabinoid absorption through the lungs facilitates. Furthermore, as the inhalation method skips the metabolization process that comes with consuming edibles, the bioavailability of CBD and hence the potency of the treatment is much greater.
This is very useful for anxiety patients who are familiar with their condition, and what triggers it. A social anxiety patient, for instance, can get control over their symptoms by taking a dose of CBD before engaging in unusual social situations, or any other intimidating scenarios. And instead of having to wait an hour to feel more comfortable, the worries and heightened self-consciousness subsides within minutes when vaporizing. Panic attacks are also best managed by vaping.
However, that’s not to say that discreet CBD treatments like edibles and CBD capsules are of no use to those with anxiety. In fact, the staggered release of cannabinoids is sometimes ideal, as vaporizing is not always feasible (i.e. at work). For a balance between discretion and quick effects, perhaps try CBD oil, which is absorbed sublingually by being applied under the tongue.
Working anxiety treatments have historically been few and far between. While mental work like meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to help, that a clinically proven and versatile remedy like CBD is readily available is sure to be a big help to those with the condition.