Using CBD Oil for Treating Anxiety

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In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) oil has become a widely favored remedy for anxiety. While some individuals take CBD oil to soothe their everyday worries, others use it to treat more serious conditions like generalized anxiety disorder.

A container of cbd oil on a table
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A compound found in the marijuana plant, cannabidiol has increased in availability as marijuana use is legalized in more and more states across the country. A growing number of companies have begun selling supplements, salves, and other products made with CBD oil, typically touting these items as natural remedies for issues like anxiety and pain.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, another compound found in marijuana), cannabidiol doesn’t produce a “high” when consumed.

Anxiety Disorders That CBD May Help Treat
Verywell / Tim Liedtke

Uses

The most common mental illness in the U.S., anxiety disorders affects more than 18 percent of the population each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Although anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, many people opt to forgo these standard approaches and self-treat with products like CBD oil.

According to a survey published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018, almost 62 percent of cannabidiol users reported that they used CBD to treat a medical condition, with the top three conditions being pain, anxiety, and depression.

Due to a lack of research, scientists aren’t sure how CBD oil might help treat issues like anxiety. Some research suggests that in addition to impacting the endocannabinoid system, cannabidiol may influence receptors involved in the modulation of serotonin (a chemical messenger thought to play a role in anxiety regulation).

Research

So far, most of the evidence for CBD’s effects on anxiety comes from animal studies and laboratory experiments.

For a report published in the journal Neurotherapeutics in 2015, scientists analyzed this preliminary research and found that CBD oil shows promise in the acute treatment of conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Social Anxiety Study

While there’s currently a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing the use of CBD oil in the treatment of anxiety, a small study published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2011 determined that CBD may help alleviate social anxiety.

For this study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo an hour and a half before performing a simulated public speaking test. Additionally, 12 other people with social anxiety disorder performed the same test without receiving any CBD treatment.

Results revealed that pre-treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort while participants were delivering their speech.

Dose-Response Study

The anxiety-reducing effect of CBD may follow a bell-shaped dose-response curve, suggests a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology. After administering different dosages of CBD before a public speaking test, researchers found that subjective anxiety measures were lowered with the 300 mg CBD dose, but not with the 100 or 900 mg CBD dosages.

Paranoid Trait Study

Another study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2018, tested the effects of cannabidiol in people with high paranoid traits and found that cannabidiol had no impact on anxiety, cortisol levels, heart rate, systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), and persecutory ideation.

Anxiety in Healthy Participants Study

Cannabidiol did not reduce responses to negative emotional stimuli or reduce anxiety in healthy participants, according to a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2017. Researchers tested participants' responses to negative images or words and threatening emotional faces and sensitivity to social rejection after taking oral cannabidiol.

Safety

Using CBD oil may cause a number of side effects, including anxiety. Some research indicates that CBD oil may also trigger the following side effects:

Cannabidiol has been found to slightly increase heart rate at a dose of 900 mg. In addition, there’s some evidence that the use of CBD oil may lead to increased levels of liver enzymes (a marker of liver damage).

CBD oil may also interact with several medications, including benzodiazepines, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, and some types of anti-epileptic drugs. If you are on any of these types of medications, consult your doctor before using CBD oil.

A research review found that in the treatment of certain types of refractory epilepsy, participants used lower dosages when using a CBD-rich extract compared to purified CBD products, and found adverse effects were less frequent in those using CBD-rich extracts.

Labeling Inaccuracy

It should also be noted that, because CBD oil is mostly unregulated, products may be incorrectly labeled. To that end, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017 found that nearly 70 percent of all CBD products sold online are mislabeled and that a number of products contain a significant amount of THC.

Since THC can aggravate anxiety and make your heart beat faster than normal, it’s possible that using CBD oil that contains THC might make your anxiety worse.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re experiencing symptoms like frequent restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, lack of control over feelings of worry, and sleep problems, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. By working with a mental health professional, you can find the anxiety treatment plan that’s right for you.

Because letting an anxiety disorder go untreated can deplete your quality of life and lead to physical health problems (such as digestive conditions), it’s crucial to consult a doctor rather than self-treating. If you’re thinking of using CBD oil to help manage your anxiety (and it is legal where you live), make sure to talk with your doctor about whether it's right for you.

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