Over 40 million adults in this country are affected by anxiety related disorders. This accounts for almost one third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The need for treatment has created a market for “SSRI” drugs like Prozac and Zoloft, Valium and Xanax. SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin (a happy chemical) in the brain, increasing its availability. This helps brain cells transmit more serotonin signals, which can reduce anxiety and boost mood in certain cases.
While these drugs are effective for many patients, it can be extremely difficult to tolerate the unpleasant side effects. Products containing CBD (cannabidiol) may be a good alternative. Studies are starting to provide evidence to demonstrate that CBD can improve many commonly reported anxiety-disorder symptoms, including acute stress and chronic anxiety in much the same way as SSRIs. They suggest that CBD has powerful anti-anxiety properties and is easily tolerated without side effects.
A double-blind study was conducted by Brazilian researchers of patients afflicted with generalized social anxiety. After consuming CBD, participants reported a significant decrease in feelings of persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming anxiety. Researchers validated patients’ subjective reports by performing brain scans showing cerebral blood flow patterns consistent with an anti-anxiety effect. *
In another small study, researchers had patients suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder perform a simulated public speaking test. Participants reported significantly less anxiety and these findings were supported by objective anxiety indicators like heart rate and blood pressure.
Evidence from animal studies have begun to characterize the details of how CBD acts in the brain, and human studies of patients with and without anxiety disorders are starting to validate CBD’s efficacy as an anti-anxiety treatment. Given the huge social and financial costs of anxiety disorder treatment in the U.S., CBD has the potential to play a significant role in treating an array of anxiety-related disorders.
While more research is clearly warranted to examine the long-term effects and potential for CBD, human experimental studies support preclinical findings and suggest a lack of anxiety effects, minimal sedative effects, and an excellent safety profile.