According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 40 million American adults suffer from one form of anxiety disorder or another, with only about one-third of those sufferers getting treatment despite the fact that many of the disorders can be treated with pharmaceutical drugs. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft are two of the most common forms of drugs used to treat anxiety-related disorders, along with tranquilizers such as such as Valium and Xanax. Not always effective, these drugs can have adverse effects and tranquilizers can be extremely addictive. These factors have created a void for alternative forms of treatment, and this is where cannabis comes into play. The non-psychoactive cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have strong anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects as demonstrated in both animal studies and human experimental and clinical studies.
CBD Impacts the Brain in Patients with Anxiety
Stress can have a significant impact on an individual and cause emotional or mental problems; anxiety is a common response to stress, and while it can be a positive in some cases, anxiety can take hold of a person’s life and profoundly disrupt their normal day-to-day interactions and activities. There are six major anxiety disorders experienced by Americans, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia, mild to moderate depression, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). How might CBD be effective in treating anxiety-related disorders? Anxiety produces a particular response in the brain and CBD is known to have an effect on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Treatments for anxiety and depression sometimes include medications that are aimed at inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, allowing brain cells to transmit more serotonin signals, which aids in the reduction of anxiety levels and may boost mood.
CBD may produce a similar response in the brain by boosting signaling thorough serotonin receptors. Furthermore, the hippocampus, a major part of the brain that largely affects how the brain functions, appear to be smaller in patients experiencing depression or anxiety. Successful treatment of depression indicates that new neurons are generated (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus in the process. Animal studies can often provide meaningful data despite not always transferring into human trials. A 2013 animal model examined the potential role of hippocampal neurogenesis in the anxiolytic effect of CBD in chronically stressed mice; the study’s findings support the notion that recurring CBD administration may stimulate neuroprotective action in the hippocampus and regenerate neurons, by facilitating endocannabinoid-mediated signaling, and thus, could be useful for treating anxiety or depression. This study is useful because it shows the possible role of CBD in promoting neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which has an impact on depression that is often associated with anxiety.
Promising Human Studies Indicating that CBD May Reduce Anxiety
Evidence from human studies demonstrates that CBD may have the potential to alleviate anxiety. Published in 2011, a small double -blind study conducted by Brazilian researchers, revealed that CBD may be effective in reducing anxiety in patients with generalized social anxiety. Patients received 400 mg of CBD that was administered orally or placebo; the results showed a significant decrease in social anxiety and established that this reduction is associated with CBD’s impact on activity in limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain.
Additionally, researchers conducted a double-blind randomized study involving patients suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD), in which they performed a simulated public speaking test after receiving a single dose of CBD (600 mg) or placebo. Supported by objective anxiety indicators including, heart rate and blood pressure, researchers concluded that CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in patients’ speech performance, while the placebo group experienced “higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort.” These studies have strengthened the findings of early animal studies by suggesting too that CBD has the potential to reduce anxiety.
Research has hinted at how cannabidiol works in the brain by way of cannabinoid receptors, and reducing the reabsorption of serotonin in the hippocampus, and in so doing, reduces the level of anxiety experienced by an individual. Animal studies have suggested how CBD could impact the brain, and now, evidence from human studies related to social anxiety are validating that CBD could play a significant role in reducing anxiety, providing a possible alternative treatment method for those suffering from various forms of anxiety-related disorders. Further research could reveal even more about the potential for CBD to treat anxiety over the long term, as well as any lasting effect that it might have on patients.