by, Tracey Roizman, DC
An estimated 18% of U.S. adults live with an anxiety disorder, making anxiety the most prevalent mental health issue facing Americans. At a cost of $65 billion per year in treatment expenses and lost work productivity, it is also a very expensive condition. But anxiety doesn’t have to be either of these things. Evidence from a long and growing list of peer-reviewed studies may prove CBD to be a powerful alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for preventing, controlling and possibly even reversing symptoms of anxiety for many people.
CBD’s Brain-Calming Effects: How It Works
There are two primary ways that CBD is known to act in the brain to reduce anxiety. One way is by activating receptors for serotonin, one of the brain’s main calming, feel-good neurotransmitters. The other is by indirectly activating the endocannabinoid system. CBD increases the activity of an endocannabinoid known as anandamide. This endocannabinoid molecule, which gets its name from the Sanskrit word for “bliss”, is often referred to as the body’s natural antidepressant. CBD inhibits anandamide breakdown, thereby allowing it to activate CB1 and CB2 receptors longer.
Anxiety Affects Numerous Areas of the Brain – And So Does CBD
The split-second process of deciding how to respond to any given situation or circumstance involves coordination between multiple areas of the brain that control a broad range of mental, emotional, and physiological functions. Anxiety arises when your brain’s emotional centers override the critical thinking centers that would normally suppress an anxious or fearful response when a situation is not actually threatening or scary.
CBD’s effectiveness in reducing anxiety is due partly to its ability to act on those areas of the brain that are responsible for creating and perpetuating anxiety, including the loops between the emotional centers, the reasoning centers, and also those areas that initiate the strong physical reactions such as rapid heart and respiratory rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, and mental confusion.
How It Works
Preliminary studies indicate that CBD changes the way past memories are stored in the brain, extinguishing deep-seated conditioned responses that act as triggers for anxiety attacks. Some of these anti-anxiety effects have been replicated in humans in early clinical trials. In one such study, a 300 mg dose of CBD reduced anxiety in simulated public speaking tests in a control group of volunteers without a diagnosed anxiety disorder while a 600 mg dose achieved significant reduction in anxiety-related signs and symptoms in a group of anxiety disorder patients.
CBD Dosing for Optimal Anti-Anxiety Benefits
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach for treating anxiety and you should always consult your healthcare provider to customize a program to provide optimal benefits for your individual needs. That said, some research has shown that CBD’s anti-anxiety effects have been observed in low and moderate dose ranges but not at high doses, indicating that less is more when it comes to using CBD to control anxiety.
CBD has also been shown to work quickly, with measurable effects after just one dose. This was illustrated in a preliminary study in which animals with a conditioned fear response showed significantly less anxious behavior when they were given a single dose of CBD 30 minutes before being exposed to an anxiety-inducing stimulus.
What About CBD For Depression and Other Mental Health Conditions?
Anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression, and, in fact, the two conditions occur together in 60-70% of cases. CBD has been shown to alleviate depression by activating the same receptors for serotonin as many common antidepressants and has been compared, in studies, to the tricyclic antidepressant drug imipramine and found to have similar effectiveness, without the side effects commonly experienced by imipramine users, including dizziness, drowsiness, head pain, and weight gain, or the potentially serious side effects of this drug, including abnormal heart rhythm, low blood pressure, blurred vision, and confusion.
Additionally, CBD is thought to have antipsychotic effects and was used with some success in a double-blind clinical trial of patients with schizophrenia, in which results showed lower levels of psychotic symptoms.
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