Anxiety disorders are the number one mental health issue facing Americans today. In fact, over 18% of adult in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder in a given year, and over 28% of adults will experience it within their lifetime.
Anxiety disorders include panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder, among other variations. These disorders can severely limit the lives of otherwise healthy individuals, taking away opportunities and damaging their social and emotional wellbeing.
One of the most promising treatments for anxiety disorders is Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. While the cannabis compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may induce anxiety in some patients, CBD has the opposite effect. Not only does CBD counteract the effects of THC on anxiety for people who use cannabis, it can also be used as a standalone compound to fight anxiety. Researchers are now investigating the use of CBD in treating anxiety disorders, and so far there are very promising results.
Social anxiety disorder is a common variety of anxiety disorder, characterized by the experience of debilitating fear in social and performance situations. A study published in the May 2011 edition of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology looked at the results of CBD consumption by people who suffer from social anxiety disorder shortly before a simulated public speaking event. Researchers found that patients who were treated with CBD before speaking experienced, “significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in their speech performance.”
Similarly, another 2011 study found that CBD treatment for social anxiety disorder resulted in “decreased subjective anxiety,” and argued that this was caused by effects on the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain.
Social anxiety disorder is just one form of anxiety disorder, although it may be the easiest to study since it has a predictable pattern of occurrence. A 2014 study found that CBD minimized multiple symptoms of both generalized anxiety and depression as well. Unfortunately, that study was done using animal models, which may or may not translate into practical results for humans.
Looking ahead, researchers are optimistic about the use of CBD for treating anxiety disorders. In 2015, researchers reviewed the available scientific literature on the subject, including preclinical, clinical, experimental, and epidemiological studies. They found that “evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, [and] social anxiety disorder,” as well as other mental health disorders. Although the study’s authors recommended that further research be done on the issue of dosage, their confidence in the efficacy of CBD is clearly stated.
Anxiety disorders are currently treated first with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Though this is often an effective technique for long-term management, CBT does not work quickly and requires a great deal of effort from the patient. When CBT is not working, patients are usually prescribed medication such as antidepressants or even benzodiazepines, although the latter can be highly addictive. CBD, on the other hand, works immediately, and there is no evidence of addictive properties or lasting side effects.
There has also been a great deal of anecdotal evidence for the use of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorder. Although this is not obviously as important as peer-reviewed research, it can serve to fill in the blanks left by a dearth of scientific study. Online accounts from individuals who have used CBD to treat anxiety disorders are generally very positive. Individuals who choose to treat their anxiety with CBD should start with a conservative dose and increase it as necessary.
Research on the use of CBD for the treatment of anxiety disorders is just beginning, and more evidence will certainly come in. However, for the millions of people who suffer from a debilitating anxiety disorder, CBD may be the answer they’re looking for.