“When your duvet feels like your best friend because the world suddenly feels so frightening.”
Anxiety. It’s an undercurrent in the lives of some, but for others, it can be a raging torrent that threatens to derail everything.
While genetics, personality type, and brain chemistry play a part in whether you tend towards anxiety or not, it’s undeniable that modern life goes hand-in-hand with elevated anxiety levels.
Just count the possible triggers: reviews at work, first Bumble dates, second Bumble dates, not sleeping enough, stressing about not sleeping enough, climate change…
And anxiety is no small issue, either. Approximately 40 million Americans live with anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.
While some look for a weighted blanket and a Xanax when anxiety looms, others have begun reaching for a strawberry-flavored CBD gummy.
CBD in some ways symbolizes the yin to THC’s yang: while too much weed can transport you to a not-so-pleasant place of paranoia and anxiety, CBD brings the calm, with none of the psychoactive effects. If you want to reach zen without the high, CBD is the cannabinoid for you.
Admittedly, there is a lot of buzz touting CBD as a wonder drug for almost everything. In the case of CBD as a treatment for anxiety, there are studies to support it, but there’s still a lack of consensus about how it works.
“The way CBD works isn’t well understood, but it does seem that the likely explanation is the way in which CBD blocks the degradation of endocannabinoids, thus increasing their level,” explains Dr. Jordan Tishler, President of the Association of Cannabis Specialists and CEO of InhaleMD. “It’s kind of like the way an SSRI works for serotonin.”
“It’s kind of like the way an SSRI works for serotonin.”
CBD indirectly helps to maintain the body’s anandamide levels. Anandamide is a potent neurotransmitter found in the endocannabinoid system, referred to as the bliss molecule. (Heads up: ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss or divine joy.)
Anandamide brings all the good feels, including well-being and happiness, and helps to manage anxiety and stress by regulating mood.
CBD also appears to work on the paralimbic and limbic areas of the brain, the systems responsible for processing emotion. The limbic system also communicates with the autonomic nervous system in response to emotional stimuli, and regulates heartbeat and blood pressure. Brain scans of individuals with anxiety show that they tend to have overactivity in these areas, and CBD might help to reduce this.
A forum chat among individuals who had experimented with CBD for anxiety turned up the following insights:
- If I just want to go out, live my life but feel carefree, I take between 2, 3 drops of 10%. If I want to feel numb and totally anxiety-free, I take 4 drops. Six drops and I’ll be in a dreamy state, between reality and sleep. Your body needs to get used to CBD. I started feeling really well and relaxed after 4 to 5 days.
- I vape CBD for anxiety and man…I feel great! It works better than Xanax or even Klonopin for me. I feel calm and at ease, even in social situations.
- I take 3 to 5 drops of 5% CBD in the morning and early evening. After a few days, it builds up in my system, and it’s great. Some days are more effective than others, and some days are more anxious than others. But overall, it’s a great natural solution.
CBD looks set to disrupt the pharmacotherapeutic landscape, and with good reason: anti-anxiety meds are often accompanied by unpleasant complications such as addiction, weight gain, and drowsiness. In contrast, CBD has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated with no known significant side effects.
Dr. Tishler acknowledges that CBD could represent a viable treatment for anxiety, but has some caveats for those thinking of using it.
“I think that CBD may hold significant promise for treating anxiety. However, almost all the CBD studies have been done in rodents only,” says Tishler.
“It’s important to note that all the studies of CBD, whether human or rodent, show benefit only at really high doses: 700-1400mg per day for an average person.”
Tishler recommends sourcing CBD through a state-approved medical cannabis program and steering clear of products you can pick up at your local corner store. He also suggests opting for an oral CBD product.
“I don’t think you can realistically get enough CBD by vaping. Taking it orally at least provides a route that might reach a truly beneficial dose.”