What You Probably Didn't Know About Cannabidiol and Anxiety
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorder affects more than 40 million adults and is the most common mental illness affecting the country. With this in mind, it also is the most costly mental illness. For the United States’ healthcare system, anxiety disorders are estimated to cost nearly one third of the total healthcare budget - up to $42 billion a year! Anxiety disorders tend to weigh the system down because those who suffer from them typically visit the emergency room or family doctors three to five times more than someone without anxiety. For people who have experienced anxiety over the long term, their symptoms can begin to affect other aspects of their health as well. Although these costs may seem extremely high, for both the health care system and personal long term health, still only a third of people experiencing anxiety actually seek out medical assistance.
Although a huge percentage of the population is likely to have some form of anxiety disorder, it doesn’t mean that society needs to continue to suffer, or pursue treatment with anti-anxiety medications. Did you know that if you experience panic attacks, chronic stress and anxiety there is a safe, natural alternative to the traditional options? Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most common cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant (both the medical marijuana variety, and the completely legal industrialized hemp varietal). Despite often being associated with THC, CBD has a dramatically different effect on the human body than what many people might expect. It also has a dramatically different effect than the many anti-anxiety drugs that are being increasingly prescribed. In both cases, CBD is able to do what pharmaceuticals and THC do not: provide effective, all natural and side effect free relief.
An Alternative to SSRIs
Cannabidiol is a phytocannabinoid, which means it is able to mimic naturally produced endocannabinoids within the body. These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, the regulatory system that ensures the homeostasis of the internal environment when it’s confronted with external forces. The endocannabinoid system regulates the body’s fear and stress response and consists of a variety of receptors spread throughout the body, and especially throughout the nervous system. Phytocannabinoids, including CBD, are able to directly and indirectly interact with these receptors in a way that replicates the endocannabinoids our own body naturally produces.
In terms of traditional methods to treat anxiety disorders, typically they target the serotonin receptors. These drugs are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or more commonly SSRIs. These drugs block the ability of the receptors to reabsorb serotonin back into the brain, meaning that it lasts for much longer than usual. By having more availability, there is an increase in serotonin signaling which uplifts mood and calms anxiety. The research now is strongly demonstrating that CBD has a very similar effect, but without any of the harsh side effects (addiction, mood changes, lethargy and dulling of feelings) that pharmaceuticals can cause.
According to the evidence, CBD increases the serotonin signaling, thereby having a direct effect for treatment of anxiety, stress and depression. It’s also been noted that CBD has a extremely quick onset for results.
A Boost to Memory, and a Reduction in Stress
Another thing you might not know about CBD therapy and anxiety, is that it also seems to have a supporting effect for regeneration of neurons within the hippocampus. This part of your brain is vital to the creation and regeneration of memory and cognition. Unfortunately for those people suffering from anxiety and chronic stress, this part of the brain is neglected as the body goes into overdrive just trying to survive on a day to day basis. No new neurons are generated and the hippocampus shrinks. When the anxiety disappears, the brain is able to redirect its attention to healthy daily functions, and begins to generate new neurons in the area.
Targeting the Hot Spots in the Brain
Through the miracles of technology, scientists are able to see exactly which areas within the brain the CBD oil therapy targets. This means using two scans: the single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). By scanning the brain, they have been able to determine which areas of the brain see more blood flow and neuronal activity after CBD ingestion. The two main areas they have seen activity in are the parahippocampal gyrus and a decrease in the left amygdala-hippocampus complex. Both these areas are associated with the alleviation of fear, anxiety, and stress. The researchers were also able to determine both through brain scans, as well as in human trials, people had a decreased stress reaction to fearful facial expressions in others, something that humans have evolved to respond to but is less useful in today's modern society.
The initial laboratory evidence is clear, and the clinical trials are now underway pursuing the use of CBD therapy for the safe, effective and side effect free treatment of anxiety and chronic stress. As more people become aware of this alternative therapy, the long-term effects of anxiety on their health, and the health care system as a whole, will be alleviated. Anxiety disorders don’t need to have such a stranglehold on society.