Groundbreaking research into the health benefits of Cannabidiol or CBD – the non-intoxicating chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant – has yielded impressive results in recent years.
Numerous studies have found that CBD may be therapeutically useful for treating a variety of different conditions that affect not only the body, but also the mind. For example, researchers have found CBD to possess anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, and anti-psychotic properties – just to name a few.
CBD’s powerful anti-anxiety properties have been well-documented in numerous studies as well.
While anxiety is considered a normal reaction to stress (which may be beneficial in some situations), excessive anxiety may negatively affect a person’s day-to-day living. There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias to name a few. Collectively, anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans.
However, researchers have shown time and time again that CBD may be therapeutically useful for the treatment of these disorders.
One study published back in 1982 in the journal Psychopharmacology investigated the action of CBD on the anxiety produced by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is known as the compound in cannabis that produces the psychotropic “high” that users feel, but has also been shown to induce anxiety and psychotic-like symptoms in people. The researchers verified that CBD was able to block the anxiety produced by THC and was involved in the antagonism effects between the two cannabinoids.
A 2006 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research found that CBD significantly reduced anxiety and psychotic-like symptoms induced by THC.
Similarly, a 2010 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that some of the effects of CBD on brain function and psychiatric symptoms were in the opposite direction to those of Δ-9-THC. The authors concluded that CBD might have a role in the treatment of psychotic and anxiety disorders.
One study compared CBD versus ipsapirone on human experimental anxiety using a simulated public speaking test and the results suggested that ipsapirone and CBD have anxiolytic properties in human volunteers submitted to a stressful situation. Similarly, another study published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2011 found that CBD reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients.
CBD for anxiety disorders
In a recent 2015 review article published in the journal Neurotherapeutics, researchers from the New York University School of Medicine and the Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante in Spain reviewed the evidence from preclinical, clinical, and epidemiological studies on the potential risks and benefits of the use of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders.
Symptoms arising from excessive fear and anxiety occur in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).
These anxiety-related disorders are associated with a diminished sense of well-being, elevated rates of unemployment and relationship breakdown, and elevated suicide risk and constitute an immense social and economic burden on society.
The study was separated into preclinical evaluations of studies and clinical (human) evaluations of studies.
For preclinical studies, the authors found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports the potential of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders.
Evidence has shown that CBD exhibits a broad range of actions, relevant to multiple symptom domains, including anxiolytic, panicolytic, and anticompulsive actions, as well as a decrease in autonomic arousal, a decrease in conditioned fear expression, enhancement of fear extinction, reconsolidation blockade, and prevention of the long-term anxiogenic effects of stress.
The authors concluded that preclinical evidence supports CBD as a treatment of GAD, SAD, PD, OCD, and PTSD. They also pointed out that CBD has the advantage of not producing anxiogenic effects at higher dose, as distinct from other agents that enhance cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) activation. In particular, results from their review show its potential for the treatment of multiple PTSD symptoms. These include reducing arousal and avoidance, preventing the long-term adverse effects of stress, as well as enhancing the extinction and blocking the reconsolidation of persistent fear memories.
More importantly, in their evaluation of human experimental and clinical studies, the authors also found evidence that strongly supports the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders.
Oral doses of CBD ranging from 300 to 600 mg reduces experimentally induced anxiety in healthy controls, without affecting baseline anxiety levels, and reduces anxiety in patients with SAD.
CBD also acutely enhances fear extinction, suggesting potential for the treatment of PTSD, or for enhancing cognitive behavioral therapy. Neuroimaging studies of the brain provide evidence of neurobiological targets that may underlie CBD’s anxiolytic effects. These include reduced amygdala activation and altered medial prefrontal amygdala connectivity.
Overall, the authors found that preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects. Human experimental findings support preclinical findings, and also suggest a lack of anxiogenic effects, minimal sedative effects, and an excellent safety profile.
Finally, the authors concluded that their review emphasizes the potential value and need for further study of CBD in the treatment of anxiety disorders.