July 20, 2021 6 min read

People take CBD daily for many different reasons, but using CBD for anxiety is easily among the most popular.

As researchers have begun to uncover CBD’s anxiolytic properties, many of the studies available show that the cannabinoid performs well to reduce anxiety without any serious drawbacks. In fact, CBD’s risk profile often pales in comparison to that of popular pharmaceuticals prescribed for anxiety disorders.

These studies have gained CBD plenty of fame in the wellness community, as anxiety is a major ailment that’s often difficult to tame.

So, is using CBD for anxiety everything it’s talked up to be? And if it does work, what’s the best way to use it?

Great questions! Here’s what we know:

Table of Contents
Anxiety Prevalence and Treatments
CBD for Anxiety Research
Is Using CBD for Anxiety Safe?
How to Use CBD for Anxiety
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety is a prevalent condition that is frequently treated with pharmaceuticals, many of which have a lengthy list of adverse effects, including addiction.
  • Research suggests that CBD has anxiolytic properties that may be useful for managing anxiety, including specific types of anxiety like social anxiety or PTSD.
  • CBD’s potential side effects are much milder than many pharmaceuticals and there is no risk of dependency. 
  • Always talk to your doctor before you begin using CBD for anxiety, especially if you already take prescription medications.

Anxiety Prevalence and Treatments

Anxiety is a common ailment that affects around 18.1% of people in the United States every year. Untreated anxiety can have various short and long-term effects, like muscle tension, nausea, increased risk of heart attack, increased stress hormone production (leading to acne, weight gain, and more), or insomnia.

A pile of pills with questionable side effects formed into the shape of a question mark

There are a variety of treatments available for different forms of anxiety, but many are ineffective or come with a slew of negative side effects. Some anxiolytic medications are even habit-forming, leading to addiction and an increased risk of overdose.

Xanax, for instance, is a popular benzodiazepine that’s often prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Although it definitely provides an intense calming sensation, it also has a lengthy list of potential side effects, like dizziness, loss of coordination, changes to sex drive or mood, forgetfulness, and potentially even hallucinations or thoughts of suicide.

What’s worse is that these types of medications can be highly addictive. The American Addiction Centers sites that 4 of every 10 patients who take benzodiazepines every day for more than six weeks will experience dependency. Sources also suggest that due to it’s tolerance-building nature, patients who use Xanax daily will eventually need increased doses.

Assuming the evidence regarding CBD for anxiety checks out, CBD already has the upper hand. CBD isn’t thought to be tolerance-building. Instead, it may even cause reverse tolerance, meaning smaller CBD doses may be needed over time.

So, does CBD really work for anxiety? We’ll let the research speak for itself:

CBD for Anxiety Research

Research regarding CBD is generally limited, but there has been plenty of interest surrounding the use of CBD for anxiety. The studies available vary. Some look at CBD’s general use as an anxiolytic substance, while others focus on CBD for specific anxiety-related conditions, like social anxiety disorder or PTSD.

Each study relies on a basic well-rounded theory about how CBD works inside the body, through the Endocannabinoid System. This bodily system has receptors located in the brain and throughout other major organs and is thought to have an impact on all major functions, including the production or hormones (like serotonin or cortisol) that are thought to impact anxiety.

In fact, research shows that the Endocannabinoid System directly impacts anxiety and fear in a number of ways.

Here’s what we currently know about CBD and how it relates to the following conditions:

A girl expressing anxious body language while standing outside amid a social event.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The National Institute of Drug Abuse suggests that CBD was found to reduce stress in rats, reducing their physical symptoms of anxiety.

In 2015, an expansive review established CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders, This review concluded that the preclinical evidence available proved CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety due to a variety of conditions, including GAD, SAD, OCD, PTSD, and more. The study also found that CBD produces a notable lack of “anxiogenic effects,” or anxiety-inducing behavior.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Around 6.8% of people suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, a type of anxiety disorder that can affect almost every aspect of daily life.

Research shows that CBD may be beneficial for managing this specific type of anxiety disorder. A 2011 study evaluated the effects of oral CBD doses on 10 patients diagnosed with SAD. The study found that patients who took CBD experienced significantly less anxiety than the placebo group.

Another 2019 study evaluated 37 teenage patients diagnosed with SAD. The group was given either a daily CBD dose or placebo for 4 weeks. The final evaluations used two different scales to measure relative anxiety and CBD significantly reduced anxiety on both scales.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

A 2012 study evaluated the effects of various cannabinoids on obsessive-compulsive behaviors and found that CBD inhibited these behaviors in a time-dependent manner. More information is needed about CBD for OCD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A 2018 study found that CBD may help with PTSD both as a standalone treatment and in addition to certain therapeutic routes, like cognitive behavioral therapy.

Research has also shown that CBD may help combat nightmares in PTSD patients. Some evidence suggests that CBD works for PTSD by improving the learning and retention of fear extinction, helping to reduce anxiety related to traumatic memories.

Anxiety-induced Insomnia

In addition to reducing anxiety, a 2019 study found that CBD improved sleep quality in patients with anxiety.

Is Using CBD for Anxiety Safe?

CBD for anxiety sometimes gets a bad rap by those who confuse CBD with THC, the psychotropic cannabinoid found in cannabis. This is because THC has been linked to inducing anxiety and panic in some people, especially at high doses.

Thankfully, CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it won’t get you high or cause a panic. In fact, research has found that CBD may actually help prevent the paranoia caused by THC when the two cannabinoids are taken together.

As opposed to common anxiolytic medications, CBD has been shown to have only a few mild side effects for some people, like tiredness, diarrhea or appetite changes. In most studies, CBD is described as “well tolerated” even in high doses. Plus, CBD is not habit-forming, and leading organizations have characterized it as having no public safety risks.

We still have more to learn about using CBD for anxiety, but the potential benefits seem to outweigh the risks for most people.

Note that while CBD is generally described as safe, it may react with some medications. You should never discontinue daily medications without your doctor’s guidance, and you may need to make special changes to your prescription routine to incorporate CBD. Talk to your doctor for help deciding if CBD for anxiety is right for you.

A bottle of CBD oil, the most common type of CBD product chosen by those who use CBD for anxiety.

How to Use CBD for Anxiety

Everyone’s experience with CBD is different because everyone’s Endocannabinoid System is uniquely balanced. Additionally, we haven’t discovered any singular cause of anxiety. Instead, anxiety has different causes and triggers and manifests differently for every person.

Because CBD is thought to have very little risk of adverse reactions and is non-psychotropic, many people approach CBD dosing as a “guess and check” process where they begin with small doses and slowly increase the dose until they achieve the desired effects.

Vida Optima CBD Softgels

In order to create a CBD routine that works to manage your anxiety, consider the following tips:

  • CBD is thought to be most effective when taken daily, so try regular doses for a week or more before deciding to increase your dose.
  • Many people suggest that Full Spectrum CBD formulas offer greater benefits than CBD Isolate, so you may look for a formula that offers a full range of cannabinoids.
  • Some people may benefit most from two doses of CBD, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The type of CBD you choose will affect the duration of its effects. For instance, CBD edibles may provide long-lasting effects, and they’re an easy way to work CBD into your daily routine.
  • Keep a journal of your dosing routines and how you feel after each dose. Then, use this as a reference when deciding if you should increase, decrease, or split your CBD dose.
  • Try taking CBD an hour or more before entering situations that may incite anxiety. That will give your CBD dose enough time to peak, providing you with the greatest effects.

Resources

  1. “Anxiety and Depression.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#:~:text=Anxiety%20disorders%20are%20the%20most,of%20those%20suffering%20receive%20treatment.
  2. “Xanax.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-9824/xanax-oral/details
  3. “The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol” https://archives.drugabuse.gov/testimonies/2015/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol
  4. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
  5. “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0269881110379283
  6. “Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6856203/
  7. “Plasma and brain pharmacokinetic profile of cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidivarine (CBDV), Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG) in rats and mice following oral and intraperitoneal administration and CBD action on obsessive-compulsive behaviour” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21796370/
  8. “Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00502/full
  9. “Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6482919/#:~:text=Conclusions%3A%20Administration%20of%20oral%20CBD,a%20symptom%20of%20their%20PTSD.
  10. “Cannabinoid Modulation of Fear Extinction Brain Circuits: A Novel Target to Advance Anxiety Treatment” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6642657/
  11. “Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/

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