The demand for antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication is on the rise as the number of people who suffer from anxiety steadily grows, especially among millennials. It is no wonder why this happens when we live in a materialistic society of mindless consumption, economic inequality, and constant pressure to be the best and earn the most while presenting a perfect image of ourselves on social media.
We’ve all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives as it’s a perfectly normal response to stressful situations, uncertainty, or while experiencing some life-changing events which result in worrying about the future. Be that as it may, as Hippocrates said long ago, “Everything in excess is opposed to nature” – and this goes for anxiety and fear as well.
Anxious thoughts overwhelmed with fear plague millions of people worldwide, so the demand for anti-anxiety medication is increased excessively. However, in the recent years, there’s an increase of interest in cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, as a natural solution to anxiety and stress since it doesn’t cause all the negative side effects that the previously currently prescribed medication does.
Elaborating on this, CBD doesn’t carry the negative effects when used for medical purposes, making it the ultimate natural ingredient for helping with anxiety. Moreover, CBD has no reported side effects, it’s non-addictive, it’s not emotionally destabilizing, and it’s all natural.
In addition, cannabis-derived CBD, like the one in hemp oil, is not psychoactive like THC is, so it won’t get you in the ‘high’ state, nor affect your alertness throughout the day.
What Does Scientific Research Say?
Due to the cannabis prohibition, we’re short on first-rate and long-term studies. Nonetheless, scientists are quickly making up for lost time as the number of studies on CBD’s benefits and effects on anxiety is gradually increasing.
One of the earliest human studies was the one conducted by Dr. Zuardi et al. in 1982. This study, where eight volunteers were given 0.5mg delta 9-THC, 1mg CBD, a mixture of both a placebo and diazepam, suggested that CBD has anxiolytic properties in contrast with the opposite effect of delta 9-THC.
Another study, published in 2011 by Dr. Crippa et al., involving patients with a generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD), came to the same conclusion. At first, some of the patients were given 400mg CBD and the rest of them were given a placebo. Then, in the second session, the roles were reversed so the patients who previously received CBD now were given a placebo and vice versa. After comparison was made using neuroimaging, there was no doubt that CBD reduced the anxiety these patients were experiencing due to the effect it has on the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain.
A more recent study conducted by Dr. Blessings et al. reviewed and analyzed scientific literature of CBD as an anxiolytic drug from English, Portuguese and Spanish databases. The scientific literature involved human experimental, preclinical, clinical as well as epidemiological studies. The reviews indicated that CBD is efficient in reducing the anxiety and stress levels in healthy patients when given the right dosage. The anxiolytic effect of CBD is also relevant to other anxiety-related disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobia (SP).
The Mechanisms Of How CBD Acts On Fear And Anxiety
The human body has naturally occurring cannabinoid receptor cells, CB1 and CB2, since it produces its own cannabinoids internally. These receptors can be found throughout the body, most commonly in the brain and the immune system, and alongside cannabinoids, they form our endocannabinoid system, otherwise known as ECS.
Our endocannabinoid system, which keeps our brain healthy, is responsible for immunity and regulates our stress responses. Other receptors in our body, like 5-HT1A and GPR55, also bind with CBD, which results in CBD playing the role of an anxiolytic agent.
5-HT1A Receptor And Its Role In Reducing Anxiety
Research conducted in 2009 aimed to test whether cannabidiol, or CBD, weakens acute autonomic responses to stress, or in this case, restraint stress (RS) when 5-HT1A receptors are activated.
The first session of the research involved rats who were given 1mg, 10mg, or 20mg of either vehicle injections or CBD. Half an hour later, the rats were exposed to restraint while the scientists recorded their cardiovascular responses. The second session didn’t differ much from the first one, except that the rats were injected with the 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY100635 prior to being exposed to restrain and injected with CBD or the vehicle injection. After the exposure to restraint, the rats experienced increased heart rate and blood pressure. Then, after being tested with elevated plus-maze (a test which measures anxiety in rodents), the rats caused a response which indicated they were suffering from anxiety.
Evidence confirms that CBD weakens the effects of stress and anxiety caused after exposing the rats to restraint, while the antagonist WAY100635 caused CBD not to have any effect. This means that CBD reduces anxiety by binding to the 5-HT1A receptors, which interestingly, play a bigger role in reducing anxiety than the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
Hippocampal Neurogenesis And The CB1/CB2 Receptors
What hippocampal neurogenesis means is generating neurons, or growing new cells, in the hippocampus. According to a report published by Dr. Hill et al. in 2015, the growth of new cells in the hippocampal is all it takes for anxiety and depression-like behaviors to be reduced.
In a study conducted in 2013, it was concluded that CBD is responsible for the growth of new cells in the hippocampal once it indirectly activates the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Therefore, we can say that CBD reduces anxiety and depression-like behavior by indirectly activating to the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Allosteric Modulation Of The MOR And DOR
Even though it’s not yet known how it works exactly, scientists believe that by allosteric modulation of the mu-opioid receptors (MOR) and the delta-opioid receptors (DOR), anxiety is significantly reduced. Depending on how much the MOR and DOR are activated, one person is more prone to experience anxiety than another.
Dr. Kathmann et al. (2006) published a study investigating cannabidiol when interacting with the previously mentioned mu-opioid and delta-opioid receptors. Evidence suggests that CBD works as an allosteric modulator of these receptors, meaning that it helps in reducing anxiety.
Inflammation of the nervous tissue, or neuroinflammation, is very common with people who experience anxiety. When increased, it actually additionally contributes to that stress and anxiety.
It is known that CBD reduces inflammation by activating the TRPV-1 receptor, this way reducing neuroinflammation, so this is one more way in which CBD could potentially treat anxiety.
There are more mechanisms of how CBD treats fear and anxiety. However, the majority of them are, unfortunately, less researched.
CBD And Healthy Stress Levels
According to a study conducted by Dr. Hillard in 2014, CB1 receptor signaling is essential for healthy stress levels and its deficiency in a person may lead to increased stress levels and bad memories resulting in anxiety.
Since CB1 receptors, which are concentrated in the brain and the central nervous system, are responsible for memory, mood, sleep, and pain sensation, and play a major part in keeping our stress levels healthy or unhealthy. CBD may help boost the activity of our cannabinoid receptors, thus protecting us from unhealthy stress levels.
The use of CBD has shown great effects on both humans and animals when experiencing stress, anxiety, or fear. After witnessing the scientific literature validated by both human and animal studies and research, we can conclude that CBD does have an anxiolytic effect by keeping our stress levels at bay.
Furthermore, research shows that our endocannabinoid system needs to be in balance in order to maintain internal stability, so dosage is important. Since cannabis dosing depends on the person, the level of anxiety, and how it’s being consumed, it’s advisable to begin with a low dose that you gradually increase until you reach the desired effect.
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