CBD: Anxiety Treatment Without Big Pharma?
When anxiety hits, it sometimes can feel like a freight train. Suddenly people find themselves no longer stressed-out but drowning in a serious mental illness. Symptoms can include a constant sense of dread, racing thoughts that spiral uncontrollably and an increase in panic attacks. Because of some symptoms’ severity, people have searched for a safe, natural therapy. This quest has led many people to begin using CBD to treat anxiety.
Panic attacks themselves can hit at any moment. People often find it difficult to make the connection between the attack and a particular circumstance or event. When people experience their first panic attack, it can be confusing and feel like a heart attack.
Most individuals in the throes of a panic attack find it almost impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Anxiety and panic disorders are striking more and more people, including those who have no history of mental illness. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18 percent of Americans experience measurable issues with anxiety every year. Unfortunately, perhaps due to stigma or lack of education, only 30 percent of those people afflicted seek assistance. To make matters worse, professionals estimate that only 10 percent of those receiving assistance actually gain any benefit.
Despite these depressing statistics, it's important to know that anxiety remains extremely treatable. Through a combination of therapy, lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication, people can break out of the anxiety prison. Increasingly, people are leaning toward more alternative medications in lieu of the traditionally problematic mood-altering drugs.
Many people require more than just therapy to get out of the depths of anxiety, but they are adverse to the serious side effects of the more typically prescribed pharmaceuticals. Let's face it, popular anti-anxiety medications can come with some very problematic side effects, including loss of sex drive, change in sociability, and even an increase in depression. This is where CBD has come into play.
How CBD Affects Anxiety
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound derived from the cannabis sativa plant. While related in some ways to its sister cannabinoid, THC, it does not share any of the mind-altering effects. Instead, CBD seems to foster a gentle sense of relaxation and calm. The endocannabinoid system, which all mammals have, regulates many aspects of our life, including pain modulation, emotional behavior, fear, memory, and mood. As with all phytocannabinoids, it can mimic the body’s own endocannabinoids and replicate many of the same effects.
Unlike cannabinoids such as THC, which has been found to lock directly with cannabinoid receptors, CBD seems to have a much more indirect influence on our endocannabinoid system. Through the growing body of research into CBD and anxiety, CBD continues to demonstrate a positive benefit for a variety of anxiety and panic disorders.
But how does it influence a person's experience with anxiety? A 2013 research paper concluded that CBD therapy had a positive effect on the hippocampus by helping to stimulate neurogenesis. The hippocampus is responsible for many aspects of everyday life, including memory and cognition.
Patients who suffer from anxiety and depression typically have smaller hippocampal regions than those without these disorders. When research mice were given CBD oil, they experienced measurable increases in the neurogenesis of their hippocampus region. Scientists have discovered that when patients generate new brain cells and connections within the hippocampus, they make great strides in their recovery from depression and anxiety.
Another area being explored by researchers is how CBD has similar effects to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have become one of the most common prescriptions in the United States. These medications prevent the quick reabsorption of serotonin and, similarly, CBD has been found to increase serotonin transmission between these receptors. Specifically, CBD seems to target the 5-HT1A receptor, and has been shown to have demonstrably faster results on serotonin than traditional SSRI medications.
While much of the current research remains in its infancy stages, some preliminary human trials have been conducted. These trials, while relatively small, have found a correlation between the use of CBD oil and a reduction in social anxiety disorders. Researchers concluded that CBD had positive effects on anxiety, measured by indicators such as heart rate and body temperature. The mounting body of evidence seems to strongly suggest that CBD is a viable alternative to traditional SSRIs for treatment of anxiety and panic disorders.
Using CBD to Treat Anxiety
Despite the research still being in its preliminary stages, many people have decided to take a leap and begin self-prescribing CBD oil and other CBD products for their anxiety issues. For many, the Big Pharma alternative is not an option. The side effects of traditional mood-altering medications can be so severe that people are desperate for an alternative. Thankfully, CBD oil remains one of the safest options on the market and lends itself well to careful individual experimentation.
While CBD continues to be found safe to use in most cases, it is always well-advised to consult with a medical professional before beginning any new therapy. It is especially wise to discuss with a healthcare professional any changes to SSRI medications, since there can be severe side effects when patients try to reduce their anti-anxiety prescriptions or go “cold turkey.”
Most resources regarding CBD oil for anxiety suggest starting with small daily doses, and slowly increasing over time until the desired anti-anxiety effect is achieved. Again, CBD oil lends itself well to careful experimentation, but always should be used slowly and mindfully. On top of this, it's imperative to source pure, non-GMO CBD oil to ensure only the purest ingredients are entering your body.