CBD for Anxiety – Can CBD Replace Anxiety Medications?

More than 40 million American adults suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. That’s a serious impact on the mental health of 18.1% of the population. Though anxiety is classified as the most common mental health illness in the country, fewer than 40% of sufferers seek treatment. There are many reasons for this: mental health stigma, concerns about pharmaceutical drugs, the high cost of treatment.

But as cannabidiol oil continues to become more popular and accessible, many anxiety sufferers are asking: Could it be a viable solution? Beyond that, can CBD replace anxiety medications altogether?

Does CBD Help Treat Anxiety?

Based on the available research and anecdotal testimonies, CBD seems to have a positive effect on anxiety. To better understand the issue, we spoke with Dr. Aimée Gould Shunney, a licensed naturopathic doctor from Santa Cruz, California.

“Part of the reason CBD seems to work so well,” according to Dr. Shunney, “is that it comes in and impacts our own endocannabinoid system. It’s made up of cannabis-like compounds we make ourselves (endocannabinoids), enzymes that make them and break them down, and cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body.”

In order to better understand the effects of CBD, researchers are looking to understand the effects of endocannabinoids. According to Dr. Shunney, “The endocannabinoid system is crucial for keeping us in balance in all aspects of existence. It modulates the fight-or-flight response and helps us keep our endocannabinoids around longer. Studies show that people who have higher levels of circulating endocannabinoids have a healthier stress response. They don’t make as much cortisol in response to stress, and they recover faster.”

Recent studies do lend credence to CBD’s potential to treat anxiety. In 2015, the New York University School of Medicine conducted a comprehensive analysis of CBD studies and published their findings in the journal Neurotherapeutics. The researchers concluded that “CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders,” though they noted that further study is still needed.

A more recent retrospective case series from 2019 examined CBD usage for anxiety and sleep disorders specifically. The study, published in The Permanente Journal, analyzed 103 adult patients over a period of three months. Within the first month, 79% of participants saw a reduction in anxiety levels, and this reduction was maintained throughout the course of the study. In addition, only three of the participants suffered any negative effects from the treatment.

Other research has yielded positive results as well. A small 2010 study found CBD to be effective for people with social anxiety disorder (SAD), and a 2014 animal study found it to be effective for both anxiety and depression.

Dr. Shunney notes that CBD has helped many of her patients with treating anxiety, though she cautions that more research is still needed.

Specifically, much of the research focuses on small sample sizes, animal subjects, and the effects of cannabis as a whole. Current researchers have noted that there’s a need for more closed clinical studies that focus specifically on cannabidiol as a treatment for anxiety.

In addition, CBD is unregulated by the FDA, which means that products containing it are not subject to the rigorous testing required of conventional medications. If you do make a purchase, make sure to buy from a reputable brand whose products undergo third-party testing from a trusted laboratory. Make sure that the product has a certificate of analysis.

Should You Stop Taking Your Current Anxiety Medication?

It’s critical to emphasize that you should always consult your doctor before eliminating or replacing an existing medication. If you abruptly stop taking your medication, you may suffer severe withdrawal symptoms including heightened anxiety and depression. If you want to try CBD as a substitute, speak to your physician about the safest way to make the transition.

Can You Mix CBD With Anxiety Medications?

It’s one thing to trade one treatment for another, but can you take CBD and anti-anxiety meds at the same time?

Some users have reported that they were able to use SSRIs concurrently with CBD oil without any negative side effects. It’s important to note, however, that cannabidiol may inhibit enzymes in the body that break down and metabolize medications.

In other words, it’s possible that CBD could render certain anxiety drugs less effective. For this reason, always speak with a doctor before adding CBD to an existing medication regimen.

What Are the Benefits of CBD Over Conventional Anxiety Medications?

In addition to the potential anxiety relief noted above, CBD offers a few key benefits that appeal to many anxiety sufferers. For example:

  • Though derived from cannabis, cannabidiol is non-psychoactive. In other words, it won’t get you high like marijuana.
  • It is non-habit-forming. While SSRIs and other common anxiety medications can lead to dependency in as little as one month, CBD has no physically addictive properties. There’s also no risk of withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking it.
  • CBD oil is derived from natural plant compounds. The active ingredient, cannabidiol, is derived from marijuana and hemp and commonly packaged within a carrier liquid like MCT (coconut) oil. A high-quality product contains no harsh or toxic chemicals.
  • CBD oil is more cost-effective than most prescription anxiety drugs, especially without health insurance coverage. A one-ounce bottle (30 servings) will typically cost between $30 and $150 depending on the concentration.
  • Unlike with many popular pharmaceuticals, the side effects are minimal. Which leads us to our next section.

Are There Side Effects?

A majority of CBD users experience few to no side effects. In the aforementioned study published in The Permanente Journal, researchers analyzed 103 test subjects for three months. In that time, CBD was well-tolerated by all but three of the participants.

Side effects that researchers have observed include the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite

To minimize the presence of side effects, always start with a lower concentration of CBD and increase the concentration gradually until you achieve the optimal effect.

In addition, it’s important to note that CBD can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners. If you’re taking prescription medications, speak to your MD before taking cannabidiol.

Is CBD Legal?

All 50 U.S. states allow the sale and use of CBD, although there are restrictions that vary by state. For example, some states allow CBD that’s derived from hemp but not CBD that’s derived from marijuana.

At the federal level, it gets even more complicated. On the one hand, the Drug Enforcement Agency has declared all marijuana-derived CBD products to be illegal. However, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first CBD prescription drug, Epidiolex—designed to treat epileptic seizures. The drug is made with marijuana-derived CBD and is legally available to prescribers in all 50 states.

Although the federal legality is complicated, sales appear to be well-tolerated in most states. Just remember that, in general, CBD products should contain no more than .3% THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). If it contains any more than that, it’s regarded as a marijuana product and subject to marijuana laws.

How to Pick the Right Product

If you’ve spent any time browsing CBD products online, you’ve probably noticed a wealth of preparations including vape oils, tinctures, lotions, and even gummy bears.

The ideal preparation will depend on the effect you’re hoping to achieve. While topical treatments may be great for eczema, they won’t do much for your anxiety. You need a product that can reach your brain via the bloodstream.

With that in mind, CBD tinctures are your best bet. They provide one of the most bioavailable delivery methods, and they’re easy to take. If you’re new to cannabidiol, you want to start with a low concentration of the active ingredient.

Look for products with 500mg of CBD or less—250mg is a good place to start. Avoid the higher concentrations until you’ve grown accustomed to your starter product and determined that you want to achieve more of an effect. In addition:

  • Look for products that offer “Full Spectrum” or “Broad Spectrum” CBD; both of these products include terpenes, essential oils, and other natural compounds found in the plant; the only difference is that “broad spectrum” preparation removes all traces of THC.
  • Look for products that offer a certificate of analysis from a third-party lab.
  • Look for products that offer .3% THC or less.

Finding The Right CBD Oil Dosage for Anxiety

A bottled CBD tincture is easy to take. The oil can be mixed into foods or drinks, or you can apply a drop beneath your tongue. Use the provided dropper to apply the liquid. Remember that less is more.

Most bottles include 30 milliliters (mL) of CBD oil. One milliliter equals a serving. Be mindful of the concentration. Some bottles feature just 500mg (about 17mg per serving), while other formulations contain a full 2,000mg (or 67mg per serving). If you’re just starting out, take no more than 10 to 20 mg at a time. One drop of a 500mg product—or two drops of a 250mg product—should be plenty.

If you don’t notice an effect right away, it’s best to just be patient. It can take time to experience a noticeable impact on anxiety; that’s to be expected. If you increase the dosage early on, you may develop unwanted side effects without achieving the desired benefits.

Personal Case Studies

Aside from the clinical evidence, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence from anxiety sufferers who have documented their personal experiences using CBD. If you have some time, these detailed case studies are each worth a read.

Stephanie’s Story: In an article for Yahoo, author Stephanie Dolgoff documented her experience using CBD to treat her severe anxiety. Stephanie noted that vaping it helps her to feel instantly calmer. According to Stephanie, “The CBD also seems to help me with the dramatic, intrusive thoughts that come with my PTSD, and it lets me be more in the moment, because I’m not constantly anticipating what might go terribly, horribly wrong.”

Karen’s Story: Karen, the mastermind behind the viral website “The Art of Doing Stuff,” was suffering from extreme anxiety, so she decided to try CBD for two weeks and document her journey. She noted that her anxiety was “definitely better” by day 4. By day 7, her symptoms were reduced “by about 85%.” Ultimately, she gave a guarded recommendation, noting that she was feeling much better but conceding that some of the benefit may have been a placebo effect.

Kelsey’s Story: In an article for MyDomaine, lifestyle news editor Kelsey Clark documented her experience using CBD oil for a full week. She noted that the product made her less anxious, more focused at work, and better able to fall asleep. She ultimately concluded: “I’m definitely intrigued enough by the subtle effects to continue taking the oil, and to possibly up the dosage to the recommended two full droppers of the 30mL bottle per day.”

Heather’s Story: Heather Marcoux, news editor for the lifestyle website Motherly, tried CBD and was amazed by the results. According to Heather, “After taking it in capsules and as an oral spray, I feel like it’s at least a solid 75% effective in lowering my anxiety levels and helping me relax.”

While the above examples are just personal anecdotes, they offer a certain consistency that lends credence to the idea of CBD as an anxiety treatment. Your results may vary, but the internet is filled with stories like those above.

Will It Work for You?

Can cannabidiol replace anxiety medications? The verdict is still out. As noted by Dr. Shunney, “We don’t know that answer for sure. We have no studies that pit CBD against a prescription with a placebo group. However, I do think that there’s a possibility that it can certainly be helpful to people who are trying to avoid going on anxiety medications or going off.”

Many users have found cannabidiol products to be an effective anxiety reducer. The best way to see if it works for you is to give it a try. Just remember the following:

  • Always consult your doctor before giving up your existing medication
  • Always consult your doctor before using it in addition to an existing medication (as it can interact with certain drugs)
  • Remember that the benefits are subtle at first; stick to the manufacturer’s dosage recommendations
  • Start with low-concentration oils, and increase the concentration as needed.
  • Do your research before purchasing any product; look for a certificate of analysis, and stick with high-quality products.

More research into CBD is still needed, but the existing data is exciting. If you’re ready to take the next step, Save on Cannabis offers a wide range of CBD coupons from leading manufacturers. Try it for yourself, and see if it provides the relief you’re looking for.

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