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What does CBD really do for anxiety?


CBD, short for cannabidiol, is becoming one of the fastest growing plant based supplements in the world. In 2018 there was over $500 million of CBD sales in the US alone and sales are projected to grow to over $1 billion a year by 2020. The World Health Organization said that CBD poses no health risks and is non-addictive, and people are experiencing life changing improvements in their physical and mental health. While CBD has a myriad of benefits, one of the most sought after is its anti-anxiety properties.


How did CBD get public recognition as a medicine?

Many people point to the story of a young girl named Charlotte Figi who had a rare form of epilepsy which was not treatable with traditional medication. Her parents tried every possible treatment program, diet, doctor, and drug – but none could stop the seizures. 


Desperate for a solution, the very anti-cannabis parents saw an online video of a boy being treated with a high CBD low THC strain of Cannabis that stopped his seizures. So they figured out how to get their daughter a similar one and then tried it out. Charlotte went from having 300 seizures a week to 2 or 3, and her story became a national media sensation. This changed paradigms at a national level and people in power began to question their own stances on both CBD and cannabis. 


What else can can CBD help with?

CBD is used to help with pain, inflammation, and anxiety among other ailments. What appeals to a lot of people about using CBD instead of traditional cannabis is that it’s non-intoxicating. THC has medical uses but it’s “high” make its consumption appropriate for a much smaller group of patients. CBD by contrast can be used at any time of day by anyone. 


CBD to treat cannabis(THC) paranoia

Many people talk about feeling overwhelmed by the Cannabis high and experiencing serious anxiety, paranoia as a result. Somewhat surprisingly to some, CBD can actually reduce these effects and help both medical patients and recreational users control anxiety caused by THC. CBD unlike THC, does not bind to cannabinoid receptors to make you feel “high” and the two actually compete for open receptors. Scientists say CBD has a “dimming effect” on THC which makes it one of the few effective solutions for this type of anxiety. 


Anxiety in the United States

Roughly 40 million American adults, 18% of the population, suffers from an anxiety disorder. Big pharma has developed Serotonin inhibitors such as Zoloft, Prozac and tranquilizers like Xanax, Valium. While these drugs work well for some, there are a lot of patients who don’t respond well to them or don’t like their side effects. CBD’s anti anxiety properties can help so many people. 


Another way to treat anxiety

Given both the roughly 40 million people with anxiety and the imperfect solutions that exist today, many people are looking for alternatives. Restrictions on Cannabis have held back research on CBD but the compounds medical efficacy (ability to provide the desired outcome) has been proven in human clinical, experimental and epidemiological trials. 


A 2015 study done at the NYU School of Medicine decided there was significant evidence that CBD helped treat multiple anxiety disorders with “minimal sedative effects and an excellent safety profile”. Several other studies have agreed with this and CBD is gaining a lot of notoriety especially for anti-anxiety properties where it really excels. Evidence shows that it’s best used acutely, as needed, as opposed to in a set schedule. But many people rely on daily CBD use to find relief from symptoms.


The science – very simply explained

You’re probably wondering how CBD works. Research is still relatively recent but scientists are pointing to two processes that are occurring in the brain. 


  1. 5HT1A agonist An agonist is something that stimulates a chemical reaction, and in treating anxiety, targeting the 5HT1A receptor has been proven to be among the most impactful. CBD like SSRIs (ex. Zoloft) block serotonin from being reabsorbed by the brain and create more signaling. It’s been proven that CBD improves 5HT1A activity which can both reduce anxiety and boost mood. 
  2. Hippocampal nuerogenesis The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Often times people with anxiety or depression have a smaller hippocampus, and both CBD, SSRIs seek to remedy this issue. Neurogenesis, the growth of cells in the brain (specifically the hippocampus and olfactory bulb), has been proven to be effective in reducing anxiety and depression. Both SSRIs and CBD have been shown to increase cell growth in the hippocampus which creates long term relief for patients.


Why take CBD for anxiety instead of traditional drugs?


The CBD revolution undermines big pharma’s agenda because a lot of the established, FDA-approved anxiety drugs are deeply flawed. 


Serotonin inhibitors can take weeks to work and are considered the long term anxiety solution. Unfortunately in many cases they worsen anxiety and depression and are not a sustainable solution. On top of this many people experience side effects like diahhrea, decreased sex drive, insomnia, and even more serious withdrawal sympotoms if they stop taking them abruptly. 


Tranquilizers are useful for short term issues but have a high addiction potential and interact with other medications. They can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, confusion and more, along with potential withdrawal symptoms like restlessness, depression, sweating, and seizures. 


What’s the bigger picture?

CBD has none of these side effects and withdrawal symptoms of traditional anxiety medications. Users can choose the duration, location, and intensity of their CBD relief which makes it a very effective anxiety and inflammation medicine. Unfortunately while the 2018 Hemp bill did a lot to increase the availability of CBD there are still major regulatory hurdles for producers, business, retailers in the space. 


Recently NYC has taken a step backwards with a Department of Health crackdown on businesses selling CBD edibles and infused drinks. Government officials fear that a lack of regulation, standardization puts consumers at risk. There is an enormous body of evidence that suggests CBD is both effective and completely safe, so until the FDA comes up with an effective system of regulation this problem will continue. Ironically this puts consumers at more risk ass will have to make their own determinations about the safety and effectiveness of this potentially life-changing compound.