The numbers on the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are alarming. Between 1999 and 2014, antidepressant use among Americans increased by approximately 65 percent. It's estimated that at least one in four people takes these drugs per year. Yet due to several factors, natural remedies such as cannabidiol (CBD) for anxiety and depression are rapidly increasing in popularity. 
More and more data are accumulating about overprescription and associated risks of long-term antidepressant use. As a 2010 review concludes, "...findings argue for a reappraisal of the current recommended standard of care of depression." 
Also, another controversial set of data asks serious questions about the efficacy of antidepressants vs. placebo. To be discussed later.
In this minefield of information and misinformation, CBD for anxiety and depression could be an excellent alternative for people battling these mood disorders.
Let's look at the reasons.
Many users can attest to the efficacy of CBD for mood disorders, and fortunately, it appears that science is catching up. Medical research centers around the world are now throwing their collective effort into studying CBD for this purpose.
This all-natural component of cannabis lacks the psychotropic effects associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and it can come at a fraction of the price of conventional pharmaceuticals.
In a 2015 New York-based review on CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders, the researchers conclude:
"Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with a need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations." 
This outcome is echoed by another Brazilian review, where the researchers focused only on animal studies. Their conclusion:
"CBD exhibited anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in animal models discussed." 
Another oft-quoted case study involves a traumatized child with anxiety and sleep disorders due to PTSD. Pharmaceuticals didn't work that well for her any longer, so CBD oil was introduced to her treatment regimen. The results:
"This case study provides clinical data that support the use of cannabidiol oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep in a young girl with posttraumatic stress disorder." 
But how does CBD work for helping to improve your mood?
Antidepressants are touted to work by balancing certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters. The one most often targeted with drugs is serotonin. Antidepressant mode-of-action is complex, and understanding of its workings in the brain and the body appears to be an ever-evolving journey.
This is somewhat true for CBD as well. Whether CBD follows the same pathways as antidepressants is still unclear, but researchers speculate that it’s mainly via the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system has various receptors throughout the body, including the brain. 
Interestingly, CBD gives a bell-shaped dose-response curve. This means that it seems to be more effective against certain conditions in small doses. Very high doses have been found to be ineffective against anxiety yet effective against pain, for instance. 
In the late 1990s, the controversy started emerging regarding the efficacy of antidepressants versus placebo, most notably after an article written by psychotherapist Dr. Irving Kirsch and colleagues. The work was a meta-analysis of antidepressant clinical trial data, and its publication appeared to have opened a proverbial can of worms.
In their analysis, Kirsch and his research team found a substantial placebo effect on depression and a surprisingly small drug effect. In a later article, he says:
"Seventy-five percent of the improvement in the drug group also occurred when people were given dummy pills with no active ingredient in them."
Understandably, this unleashed quite the storm.
So as to not get lost in the details—since then, numerous other meta-analyses and even new trials have confirmed Kirsch and his team's findings. The data show that the long-term difference in improvement between antidepressants and placebos is very small. 
Other striking research has uncovered the potential of increased depression through the use of SSRIs, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors, one of the most prescribed antidepressants worldwide. Some patients have adverse reactions to them, and instead of a stable mood, they find themselves in a downward spiral.
According to David Healy, a psychiatry professor, an additional four thousand suicides each year may be linked to this high-risk adverse reaction. 
Former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health Thomas Insel states that while the data is complex, more studies are needed on who really benefits from antidepressants. He says, in addition: “... we need better, faster, more effective medications for depression that will help more people.” 
Beyond the higher-risk side effects of more severe depression, doctors report that some of their patients simply stop taking their prescription without medical assistance. Why? Because as the drug takes effect, the patients’ emotional response is unpredictable.
Some people may feel so much better that they believe they are fixed, while others cannot continue due to feeling emotionally dead. Going cold turkey can also throw the mind and body into a tailspin, possibly leading to another bout of depression.
In his article, Insel observes that “treating depression involves many moving parts, only one of which is antidepressants. And a person’s response to them is dependent on many factors.”
So it can be said that, to date, there is much controversy in the data regarding the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Another meta-analysis of the data published inPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 2010, concluded that “antidepressants are only marginally efficacious compared to placebos.” The authors reviewed the data from one of the largest antidepressant trials conducted, as well as efficacy trials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They also made note of a publication bias in the data, with results largely skewed in favor of antidepressants’ effectiveness. 
Clearly, there is a need to determine if and when antidepressants should be prescribed. There is also a need to seek out alternatives to conventional treatments for depression in order to provide those suffering from depression a wide variety of options on their route to recovery.
CBD for anxiety and depression may well be a very viable option.
Cannabidiol treatments even appear to demonstrate effects similar to those of SSRIs, at least in animal models. So far, an Italian-led study has shown antidepressant-like effects in mice on CBD, comparable to those of a well-known SSRI. 
Much more clinically robust research is needed to clarify the preliminary CBD results. Yet the current evidence is encouraging, as medicating with CBD does not demonstrate any increased risk. CBD for anxiety and depression may just be the solution everyone has been looking for: a safe and long-term aid for people suffering from anxiety and mood disorders. 
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