Most people would not view anxiety as a desirable trait. However, anxiety is a perfectly natural and even healthy response to have. Anxiety allows humans to avoid threats and can help motivate us to take better action to avoid potential disasters. The issue with anxiety occurs when people do not properly manage their anxiety levels. This causes a panic feeling for the minor instances that should not induce anxiety such as public speaking or talking to other people.
Solutions have been developed for anxiety by pharmaceutical companies. Some of the name brands include Zoloft and Prozac. The science behind these solutions is not fully understood with side effects that may cause more problems than the medicine solves.
CBD is a more recent development in the anxiety treatment area. It offers many of the anti-anxiety benefits of the pharmaceutical drugs with much less of the side effects. Unfortunately, the laws in the United States regarding CBD cause a large amount of confusion and stress. This article will not focus on the laws. Instead, it will focus on how CBD interacts with the brain to treat anxiety and a few of the various studies that have been conducted to determine the efficacy of CBD.
How does CBD work
CBD has several effects on the brain that might explain the anti-anxiety effects commonly observed. It is important to note that the current group of studies are mostly preclinical. In other words, most of these studies use lab mice instead of humans. Mice brains have shockingly similar chemistry as humans, which makes them an excellent source of predicting the effects of drugs on humans.
These first batch of studies have shown that CBD acts similar to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Prozac or Zoloft. The pharmaceutical medications work by stopping the absorption of serotonin in the brain, which causes brain cells to release more serotonin. Serotonin can reduce anxiety in certain people in certain situations. The exact science behind how an SSRI works are not even known or understood at this time. Despite the lack of knowledge, SSRI’s are still the default method for treating anxiety. This may obviously lead to issues and cause many of the negative side effects associated with taking an SSRI such as suicidal thoughts and various delusions.
CBD has the same serotonin increasing effects as an SSRI. However, CBD increases serotonin in a slightly different way by increasing the sensitivity of the receptors rather than flooding the brain with serotonin. The increased sensitivity might take effect faster than a pharmaceutical SSRI, but more research needs to occur to fully understand this effect.
Slow onset of the antidepressant effects is one of the most limiting factors about SSRI’s and other anti-anxiety treatments. Oftentimes the anti-anxiety benefits may take hours, or even days before the effects are fully realized by the brain. This might not be enough time for some patients and could lead to overdosing or other negative side effects.
CBD has another effect on the brain not as commonly reported or well known. This effect is known as “hippocampal regeneration.” Studies of CBD have shown that it has the ability to regenerate neurons in the hippocampus area of the brain. The hippocampus is responsible for the formation of memories and other cognitive functions.
Increased neurons in the hippocampus are important because studies have shown those that suffer from anxiety have a smaller sized hippocampus with fewer neurons. Other studies have shown that the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus is a known anxiety treatment. SSRI medications have the ability to allow the formation of new brain neurons. However, it often takes a significant amount of time for these neurons to regenerate while taking SSRI medication.
CBD has the additional benefit of helping regenerate neurons in a shorter period of time and doing so with a natural substance. However, this study has only been shown in lab mice because no studies of this nature have been conducted on humans.
How CBD helps anxiety
A few human studies have been conducted with CBD, and the results are promising for the future of CBD.
CBD Reduces Anxiety
One study in Brazil found that patients with social anxiety reported less anxious feelings after consuming CBD. This study was a double-blind study, but it had a relatively small sample size. However, the researchers did not just rely on the word of the patients. Brain scans were conducted and showed that their brains looked similar to those of people that had taken anti-anxiety medication. This proved that the anti-anxiety effects were not merely a placebo. It shows that CBD has real effects on the brain similar to pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication.
Another study involved participants with social anxiety to give a public speech. Those that had consumed CBD reported less anxious feelings. No brain scans were conducted in this study. However, the heart rate, sweat rate, and blood pressure of the participants was monitored. These all showed signs that they did indeed have less anxious feelings than the participants that did not consume CBD.
The evidence from animal studies has shown the characteristics of anti-anxiety treatment in the brain. A fairly large amount of animal studies have been conducted too. The limited number of human studies show similar effects as the animal studies. However, the legal and funding hurdles make conducting a large-scale CBD test difficult.
Anxiety disorders have a large financial and social burden on Americans, which means CBD can solve some major problems in the American pharmaceutical industry. More research must be conducted before any wide-scale change can be adopted.
This research includes the famous randomized-control trials that examine participants over a long period of time to determine the potential long-term effects of CBD. It appears CBD has the same efficacy as pharmaceuticals without the negative side-effects. The combination of efficacy without negative effects makes CBD an anti-anxiety medication that has the potential to change the entire pharmaceutical industry.