Medications that are used to help people with anxiety often come with side effects, but there is a compound derived from cannabis plants that may help, and may do so without any side effects, or with very few.
Due to the source of cannabidoil (CBD oil) being the same as that for a drug that is still illegal in some places, research into the medicinal properties it may have is still pretty new. Anecdotal and some research evidence are starting to show promising results, however, and it’s worth a look to see if CBD oil may be the newest or best tool in the battle against anxiety.
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil comes from cannabis plants. It has chemical in it that attach to specialised receptors in the brain. Many people have heard of one of them, THC, because it causes the ‘high’ in people who use marijuana. There are a lot of different cannabinoids though, and one of them is CBD oil.
CBD oil binds to these receptors but does not cause a high. What some people claim it may do, however, ranges from slowing the progress of cancer to improving mental health.
Some people take CBD oil as a kind of medication, dropping a few drops in the tongue with an eyedropper, while others add it to food or even use it as a cooking oil. Some people smoke it too, but as there are no suggested health benefits of taking it this way, and the negatives of any smoking include increased risk of cancers of various kinds, it is not recommended.
Do you get "high" from CBD?
CBD oil comes from hemp, the fibres of the plant that are also used to make clothing, so it will not produce a high. The plant itself has not been specially bred to produce high levels of THC. It may have trace amounts of THC in it though, so someone using CBD oil may still test positive for THC on a drug test.
CBD oil for anxiety
Specific studies around the uses and possible benefits of CBD oil are few. Most testing centres around the use of marijuana, and CBD oil itself is overlooked as if it is the same derivative. Some tests on marijuana show that it is more often used by those suffering from anxiety, but some studies also seem to indicate that it increases anxiety. This potentially-conflicting data may mean that there are conflicting substances at work, one increasing anxiety and one decreasing it. If CBD oil is one that decreases it, without negative effects, it would be a very useful medical tool.
If you are interested in using CBD oil as part of the management of your anxiety, you should focus on research around CBD oil itself, and understand that it is not the same as marijuana – and so many studies do not apply. There are some CBD oil studies that show promising results though.
For example, a small study in 2010 showed that CBD oil can reduce social anxiety in people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). The oil seemed to affect the flow of blood to certain parts of the brain that are linked to feelings of anxiety. Participants felt better, and the manner in which their brains responded to anxiety was different after taking the oil. Another study, the following year, found that CBD oil could reduce feelings of social anxiety in public speaking situations.
In 2014, some research was published that showed a reduction in anxiety and depression in an animal model.
The following year, additional analysis of previous studies concluded that CBD oil is a promising treatment for conditions such as social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They did specify that long-term use of CBD oil has not yet been tested, however, and positive results may decrease in efficacy over time.
A case study in 2016 looked at the effects of CBD oil on a child with PTSD, and showed that – in this case at least – it increased her ability to sleep and reduced her anxiety.
Further reading: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27267317
Are there dangers?
Unlike research on cannabis use, which shows several probably negative side effects, especially when smoked, CBD oil research has found few or no negative side effects. CBD oil may be a solution for those who are prone to addictive behaviour or do not tolerate the other side effects of standard medications well.
Because of the source of CBD oil, it is illegal in some areas, so you should educate yourself regarding the legal status of it in your area. It is not listed as a controlled substance in most areas, but is in a grey area and may cause some legal trouble if mistaken for cannabis or if considered for its trace amounts of THC.
You should also consult with a doctor before using CBD oil, preferably one with some specific CBD oil knowledge. If you don’t know of one, you may want to let your regular doctor know of your intention to take CBD oil, to give him or her a chance to look into it and consult as necessary. There are no clear indications of what a proper dosage should be, or how frequently it should be taken.
Though some indicators are promising, we still don’t know the specifics on how CBD oil may be affecting the mechanisms of anxiety and brain chemistry. More study is needed to determine any risk factors that may be applicable to those wanting to try CBD oil as a treatment. For those who don’t tolerate other treatments, however, or for those for whom the treatments are ineffective, CBD oil may be a solution.
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