Anxiety disorders are an enormous issue these days, with America’s National Institute of Mental Health claiming that 18.1 percent of the USA’s adult population are affected by anxiety. It is debatable whether anxiety has become more prevalent in modern society than it was in the past, or if medical professionals have simply got better at diagnosing it.
Anxiety stems from brain activity which was an essential survival mechanism in past, but can debilitating in modern society. Studies have repeatedly shown that cannabinoids (CBD) are effective in controlling anxiety disorders. To understand how this works, it is necessary to first understand why the human brain is wired to experience the unpleasant sensation of anxiety.
Anxiety is associated with an area of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is associated with the phenomenon popularly known as the fight or flight reflex. In the past, this was an essential tool for human survival. Humans spent far longer as loose bands of hunter-gatherers than they’ve spent in the modern world of offices and overcrowded cities with heaving traffic and overloaded public transit systems. Before humans settled into agricultural societies, daily life was fraught with danger. Predatory animals were far more common than they are today, and early humans only had rudimentary weapons with which to protect themselves. Feelings of anxiety triggered by the amygdala therefore played a vital role in keeping early humans alert to the dangers which surround them.
Today, the challenges humans face in their daily life are more abstract. Food and shelter are as important for survival today as they were in the past, but these survival tools are attained through working and earning money, which is then spent on food and rent. Even if the basic requirements of survival are met, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs proposes that humans have higher wants, such as socializing and self-actualization. Failure to meet these goals induces the same type of anxiety early humans felt when unable to find a safe place to stay for the night.
In the past, feelings of anxiety were a response to immediate threats. The intense alertness that anxiety induces was helpful in overcoming such threats to a human’s immediate survival. Today, feeling the anxiety associated with the fight or flight reflex will do little to help someone get promoted at work or find a partner. Anxiety is therefore often an evolutionary by-product that does modern humans more harm than good.
CBD directly targets the amygdala and thus works to reduce the feelings of anxiety produced by the fight or flight reflex. It overwhelms the receptors in the amygdala responsible for flooding the body with anxiety and therefore alleviates the unpleasant feelings of stress and existential dread that are the byproducts of modern life’s difficulties. CBD isn’t the only substance which is able to do this. However, CBD affects the amygdala without many of the negative consequences associated with other substances.
Alcohol is a common substance which has a similar effect on the amygdala to CBD. The stress of a workday often evaporates when sinking an after-work beer. However, alcohol has a range of negative effects, not the least of which is its addictive potential. If an anxiety sufferer overly relies on alcohol to combat the stress and anxiety of modern life, the problems at the root of their disorder could be exacerbated by the effect alcohol abuse has on their life. CBD is a non-addictive substance without the potential for abuse and bodily damage associated with alcohol.
CBD is far less toxic than many other substances which are regularly consumed in modern society. The toxicity of substances in comparison to their therapeutic potential is measured through its therapeutic index. Alcohol has a therapeutic index of 10:1, meaning the dose of alcohol required to provide positive therapeutic effects is one tenth of the dose required to induce death. CBD has never been associated with any deaths. The worst side-effect that has been identified with higher doses of CBD is intense drowsiness. Even water is more toxic to the human body than CBD.
CBD, therefore. provides relief to feelings of anxiety without any of the potential negative consequences associated with other treatments. CBD’s effectiveness in combating anxiety has been demonstrated in multiple scientific studies. The only negatives associated with taking CBD is that is often taken in conjunction with THC, which is another active component of cannabis. However, CBD can be taken in isolation. Unlike THC, CBD is prevalent in both the hemp and marijuana plants, which means THC isn’t even a necessary byproduct of CBD cultivation.
CBD is potentially the safest and most effective form of relief for anxiety sufferers available. Further research into its medical potential adds to what is known about CBD’s positive qualities, while uncovering no negatives. For anxiety sufferers who’ve yet to try it, CBD could provide greater release from anxiety than anything else.