The use of CBD for many types of anxiety has exploded in popularity. Its effectiveness is backed by research and anxiety sufferer feedback, but many are still hesitant to try CBD because of questions about dosage, product safety, and legal considerations. We explore each here.
Anxiety disorders affect almost 1 in 5 adults
Anxiety disorders come in many forms ranging from generalized anxiety disorder to panic disorder, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Good and bad anxiety: Know the difference
Anxiety is a natural emotion that is necessary and can be helpful when dealing with stressful or threatening situations. Anxiety becomes problematic when anxiety is felt too often, when it is out of proportion compared to the situation, or when it is difficult to control.
Anxiety disorders have been found to significantly lower quality of life, often impacting relationships, performance at work and other achievements. Harvard Medical School reports that anxiety is also implicated in several chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease, respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions. Harvard says that when people with these disorders have untreated anxiety, the disease itself is more difficult to treat and their physical symptoms often become worse.
Understand your anxiety. Take this anxiety quiz, prepared by a University of Pennsylvania anxiety specialist.
Strategies for anxiety relief
Anxiety is treatable, but still, less than 40% of anxiety suffers actually receive treatment.
There is growing body of evidence in support of the use of CBD as a natural treatment for anxiety relief
Each anxiety disorder has its own specific treatments and goals, but most include some combination of the following strategies:
Professional Therapy: Cognitive-behavioural therapy (or ‘CBT’) is a common and effective form of counseling for anxiety. CBT focuses on helping understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are working together, and on changing unhelpful patterns. Other forms of therapy include group therapy and hypnosis.
Medication: Commonly prescribed medications for anxiety include two types of antidepressants called SSRIs and SNRIs which are sold under brand names like Prozac, Zoloft, and Cymbalta. There are many known and potentially serious side-effects associated with antidepressants. Benzodiazepines are another class of fast-acting but habit-forming medications that are commonly prescribed and sold under brand names like Xanax and Valium. Most CBD products are not considered to be medications: the FDA has approved only one CBD product for prescription use to treat two forms of epilepsy. But, there is a growing body of evidence in support of the use of CBD as a natural treatment for anxiety relief, that is generally considered to be safe.
Self-help strategies: These strategies include self-help books and other media, exercise and improved diet and nutrition. Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques may also be employed to reduce unproductive anxiety and its impacts.
Anxiety treatments must be tailored to the individual: there is no single "cure-all" that works for everyone. Know your options and work with a health care professional to determine what is best for you.
Should you consider CBD for anxiety relief?
The research into the potential of CBD as a natural approach for anxiety relief is encouraging. For example, a review of 49 primary pre-clinical, clinical, or epidemiological studies conducted by researchers at the New York University School of medicine concluded that "evidence from human studies strongly supports the potential for CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders" including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More recently, a 2019 study looking into the potential of CBD to reduce anxiety and improve sleep observed a reduction in measured levels of anxiety for almost 80% of the adults studied.
The effectiveness of CBD for anxiety relief is also gaining strong support in the general population. In fact, a recent Gallup poll demonstrated that 20% of people that use CBD use it for anxiety. The poll also showed that 80% of those are aware of CBD credit it with having health benefits.
With all of this being said, the research into CBD as a treatment for anxiety is still mostly pre-clinical. More research is required.
With hundreds of CBD vendors on the market, knowing that the CBD products being sold are good quality is one of most important safety considerations.
Is CBD safe? Yes, but...
The short answer appears to be yes, but...
The World Health Organization stated that CBD is "generally well tolerated with a good safety profile". However, there are a number of CBD safety considerations of which to be aware.
In November 2019 the FDA issued a consumer update 2019 about products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds that highlights a number of these considerations. Read it here.
One of the most significant safety concerns with CBD is ensuring the quality of CBD products. Since CBD is marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication, the FDA does not regulate the safety or the purity of CBD products.
With hundreds of CBD vendors on the market, knowing that the CBD products being sold are good quality is one of the most important safety considerations. In our CBD Buyer's Guide, we outline how to identify and select a quality CBD product and highlight a few vendors that meet these important criteria.
Demystifying how much cannabidiol to use and how often
There is no universally recommended dosage for CBD. Studies have shown that CBD is safe and effective in treating anxiety at low, moderate and also very high doses (e.g. 300mg to 600mg day).
A 2018 study on cannabis dosing conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute in Prague noted that "many patients obtain benefits with much lower does, starting with 5-20mg per day".
Unfortunately, there haven’t been sufficient scale clinical trials to provide specific CBD dosage recommendations for anxiety.
"Start low, go slow and stay low"
The generally accepted approach to CBD dosing is to start with a low dose and adjust it slowly over time to one that you determine is effective for you. This approach is supported by research such as the 2018 study cited above and by the Canadian Pharmacists Association's safe and effective dosing guide.
Factors to consider to arrive at an appropriate and effective CBD dose include:
The concentration of CBD in the product being used
Your unique body chemistry and metabolism.
Everyone metabolizes differently. If you know you are generally sensitive to medications or other natural remedies, you should take that into consideration when working to establish the right dose of CBD for you.
Specific CBD dosage guidelines
A number of CBD vendors provide dosage charts that follow the start low, go slow, and stay low philosophy. For example, the stepwise procedure and charts provided by CBD product vendor Green Flower Botanicals to easy to follow for CBD products that have clear labelingBodyweight and contain proven (e.g. lab certified) amounts of CBD.
Side effects and contraindications
Although CBD is generally well tolerated, reported side effects include:
Drowsiness and fatigue
CBD can also interact with other medications you're taking, such as blood thinners.
The FDA and other sources advise against the use of CBD in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Is CBD legal where I live?
Most CBD products being marketed today are derived from hemp and are legal in the U.S. on the federal level. Buying or possessing hemp-derived CBD is still illegal in some states.
Check our CBD guide for information on specific states where hemp-derived CBD is still either illegal or where the legislation is still not clear.
Since the laws and regulations are not always entirely clear regarding CBD and are evolving quickly, it's important to check the laws in the states that you live in or travel to before purchasing or possessing CBD.
Get help for your anxiety
If you are experiencing anxiety that is impacting your daily life, reach out to a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and recommendations on treatments that are best suited for you.