Can CBD Oil Help With Social Anxiety?
Speak with anyone using cannabidiol (CBD) for medicinal purposes these days, and they are likely to talk about using CBD for anxiety. According to the largest survey of CBD users, undertaken by the Brightfield Group, anxiety is the number one medical condition treated with cannabis, followed closely by depression, insomnia, and joint pain. It's clear that many people, with or without a doctor’s prescription, choose to use CBD for social anxiety, general anxiety, panic disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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But What Does The Research Show For CBD Oil and Social Anxiety?
Those well-versed in all things CBD will know that most of the research into this compound’s health benefits are still in the laboratory or animal phases of the study, and there are generally few human-based research trials. But, when it comes to CBD for social anxiety, this is not the case. There are many, early-stage human trials for CBD and its indication for anxiety disorders.
In an extensive 2015 review on the subject, undertaken by the New York University School of Medicine and the University of Miguel Hernández in Spain, there seems to be significant and compelling preliminary evidence for using CBD to treat anxiety disorders in general.
The authors of the review provided a succinct summary of their findings, “CBD reduces experimentally induced anxiety in healthy controls, without affecting baseline anxiety levels, and reduces anxiety in patients with SAD.” They also determined that CBD has a relatively good safety profile, with little to no risk of triggering further anxiety or having any sedative effects.
Digging Deeper Into CBD, Anxiety and The Brain
There are three areas of the brain responsible for anxiety that seem to respond to CBD treatment: the midbrain dorsal periaqueductal gray (DPAG), the prelimbic cortex, and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). These regions of the brain are responsible for many of the physical and involuntary stress responses we experience as a species.
While the terminology may be complicated for the layperson, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to grasp the science-based basics of CBD’s promising effect on these areas of the brain. The discoveries were reported on general anxiety in animal studies only, but they will likely go on to form the basis of further study into CBD for social anxiety in humans.
The DPAG region of the brain is in charge of our automatic responses to threats. When scientists induced a DPAG reaction in human participants, the study subjects reported an overwhelming sensation of dread and intense distress. In animal subjects, microinjection of CBD to this region of the brain caused anti-anxiety effects, in part by activating a serotonin receptor called 5-HT1A.
The BNST is another region of the brain essential to the expression of anxiety. It plays a role in sustaining our fear response associated with anxious feelings. Through another CBD microinjection experiment, this time into the BNST, researchers discovered that CBD was again able to reduce anxiety.
Finally, in a study on CBD’s effects on the prelimbic cortex, researchers uncovered a more complicated relationship with anxiety. This area of the brain drives expressions of our fear response. In unstressed animals, CBD activated this area, which means it caused anxiety. However, when CBD was administered during an induced-stress test, CBD had the exact opposite effect when it then served as an anxiolytic. There is much more to learn about the complex role CBD plays in our brains.
The nuanced relationship between CBD and anxiety also appears to be dose-dependent. As noted in this research review, the effects of CBD oil fall on a bell-curve, which means that higher doses don’t necessarily support greater anxiety relief. In fact, most research on humans found the optimal dose for anxiety relief to be fall somewhere 300 to 600 ml.
Beyond the animal-based evidence of CBD’s effects in the brain, there is recent neuroimaging based evidence of CBD for social anxiety in humans. The research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2011, was a small, double-blind, placebo study of CBD’s effects on people with a generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) who had never received treatment.
Scientists measured the cerebral blood flow in the 10 participants during two separate sessions. In the first session, the participants received a 400 mg dose of either CBD or a placebo. In the second session, they received the medicine not handed out during the first.
Comparing the responses, the researchers were able to visibly demonstrate, through functional neuroimaging, that CBD for social anxiety holds significant potential. Their study showed that “Relative to placebo, CBD was associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety,” based on imaging of the left parahippocampal gyrus, hippocampus, and inferior temporal gyrus. These are all areas of the brain of vital importance in the study of general anxiety disorders.
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Summary of CBD Oil for Social Anxiety
The results of the Brightfield survey indicate that over 80 percent of respondents found hemp-derived CBD products to be extremely to very effective for relieving their health concerns. The results also showed that CBD users are very likely to replace their conventional pharmaceutical prescriptions, in whole or in part, with CBD.
The survey furthermore showed that 42 percent of respondents had moved away from their old prescriptions entirely, with another 37 percent relying on both CBD and an old prescription. There are many common side effects of anxiety medications, which could be one reason for the shift towards using CBD. 
There is, without doubt, a lot of ground left to cover about how and why CBD has such an effect on anxiety, general and disorders alike. The preliminary findings are exciting for many people, encouraging those suffering from of all types of anxiety disorders to explore CBD as an alternative therapy. There has yet to be any official approval by any ruling bodies in medicine as to the efficacy of CBD oil for social anxiety, but in the preliminary research at least, including those referenced above, CBD continues to have a good safety profile and was well tolerated by test subjects.