Anxiety Is On The Rise
Anxiety continues to make headlines as people are trying to cope with the COVID pandemic, and all the changes it is causing. We feel fear for our well-being, economic stability, our loved ones’ health, and our health. Uncertainty about the future is causing a chronic state of anxiety, defined as an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear raised by doubt concerning the reality and nature of a threat and self-doubt about one’s coping capacity. Coping mechanisms range from destructive behaviors like substance abuse to more constructive alternatives such as mindfulness and physical activity.
Anxiety Has Controllable and Uncontrollable Impacts
The human nervous system has several divisions that work to keep us safe and alive. The first pair of branches is the central nervous system (CNS), made up of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) comprises ganglions and nerves. Anxiety triggers “fight or flight” responses such as muscle tension, as well as uncontrollable responses such as increased heart rate and respiration.
CBD – What Is It?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of more than 100 active chemical compounds (cannabinoids) found in the plant cannabis sativa. Another more well-known compound is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC has psychoactive properties that cause various reactions in users, such as euphoria, relaxation, and hunger. CBD is non-psychoactive and can provide therapeutic benefits without the THC side-effects, including addiction. The cannabis grown as a drug contains a high level of THC in addition to some CBD. Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa grown for industrial uses such as textiles, animal bedding, and bird feed. Industrial hemp contains a high level of CBD and a much lower level of THC.
How Can CBD Help With Anxiety?
CBD is being explored as an option for individuals who experience anxiety disorders. These are specific psychiatric disorders such as separation anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Even before COVID, over 40 million Americans or 18% reported experiencing an anxiety disorder each year. With increased social isolation and a reduced sense of general well-being, the number of people suffering from anxiety is rising.
Researchers are working to understand the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) but know that it plays a role in regulating mood, sleep, and stress responses, ultimately maintaining homeostasis or stability. The body naturally produces endocannabinoids, and both the CNS and PNS contain cannabinoid receptors. While THC binds with these receptors, CBD appears to prevent the breakdown of our naturally produced endocannabinoids, increasing their effectiveness. Several anxiety-related conditions benefit from this internal stabilization:
- Relief from physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and muscle tension
- Reduction of phobias, learned fears, and frightening memories such as those associated with PTSD
- Mitigation of the SNS response to perceived traumatic events, relieving tension
- Increased release of “feel good” hormones – endorphin, serotonin, and oxytocin
- Prevention of chronic anxiety symptoms in response to current stress levels
In a 2019 study, researchers looked at CBD’s effects on 72 adults with anxiety problems. Within the first month of treatment, 79.2% of participants reported reduced anxiety symptoms.
Using CBD – What You Need To Know
Infusing cannabis in a carrier oil, like coconut oil, results in CBD oil. A CBD tincture is made by soaking cannabis in alcohol and water. Both are generally dispensed via a dropper, placing an appropriate dose under the tongue. It can take 60-90 minutes to feel the dose’s full effects, and those effects last 4-6 hours. Consistent use over several weeks provides the best long-term results.
Some research suggests that CBD may interact with liver enzymes and temporarily stop the liver from metabolizing other medications or breaking down toxins. People using medication that is contraindicated with grapefruit juice should not use CBD. Always consult your doctor before using CBD products.
Since CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC, it can show up on a drug test. Avoid using CBD products if this is a concern. In the US, hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3% THC) are legal on the federal level but are still illegal under some state laws.
Anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, and its symptoms significantly reduce sufferers’ quality of life. CBD is proving to be a viable treatment option. Until there are results from enough high-quality, controlled human studies, users are left to find their effective dosage amount and frequency. Having an easy, natural option for managing anxiety and its effects may prove the trial and error worth it.