Anxiety is a normal human emotion – it is normal to feel anxious before a test, interview, or public speaking event. It can, however, become a debilitating condition and significantly affect a person’s quality of life when it becomes excessive, difficult to control, or does not go away.
This is called Generalised Anxiety disorder or GAD.
For a medical diagnosis of GAD the anxiety must have been present for 6 months and must be accompanied by three out of these six symptoms:
“Anxiety disorders including GAD, along with related conditions of OCD and panic disorder, are the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in New Zealand affecting an estimated 25% of the population.”
How Is Anxiety Usually Treated?
Anxiety can either be treated using psychological methods or using medications.
The most common type of medications used are called SSRI’s. This includes citalopram, prozac, fluoxetine and sertraline. However, they do have some downsides. They may take weeks to reach full effect, can increase suicide ideation, may cause sexual dysfunction, and for some people they do not help at all.
Hence there is a need for alternative treatments, or treatments that can be used effectively alongside psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which have been shown to lead to lower relapse rates compared to drug therapy.
What About Using CBD Oil For Anxiety in NZ?
- How effective is CBD for anxiety?
- Does it have an anti-anxiety effect?
The good news is yes, we have had some good results in helping those with anxiety using CBD oil at the Cannabis Clinic. It is an unapproved medicine so we use it on a case by case basis.
For some people, using medicinal cannabinoids for anxiety has helped to reduce or even stop their use of pharmaceutical medications. For others who were not on any medications in the first place, they found a much more peaceful and happier quality of life when using CBD for anxiety. However, for others, the medicinal cannabis had no effect and was discontinued.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as ongoing and excessive feelings of worry. Treatment for GAD often includes counselling and strong anti-depression medication. If you have anxiety and want to avoid any adverse side effects medication might bring, CBD is a possible option due to its possible effectiveness yet gentle nature.
Low serotonin levels in the brain are related to increased mood swings, depression, and anxiety. CBD compounds may possibly decrease feelings of anxiety by influencing receptors involved in the production of serotonin!
For example, researchers analysed CBD’s effects on stress levels in rats and found lowered behaviour signs of anxiety, with decreased heart rate and other stress signals.
Other forms of anxiety
Alongside GAD, other forms of anxiety include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). These are also very unpleasant to live with and have similar disruptions to your quality of life, especially the insomnia aspect.
CBD oil’s wide-ranging effects make it an excellent possible option for helping the symptoms that come with the many different forms of anxiety. Cannabis oil for anxiety is a treatment option you should consider and discuss with your GP or one of our doctors.
A recent trial showed that an extract of medicinal cannabinoids for anxiety has significantly reduced the social anxiety associated with a simulated public speaking test in healthy people! Really interestingly, the extract was as effective as the drug diazepam. This are promising results that suggest CBD oil may help anxiety.
Another recent study showed CBD improved sleep for both healthy people and those who have insomnia. Small doses of CBD were enough to reduce sleep disruption and increase total sleep time.
While it is still early days for conclusive research, these results are a great starting point.
Other related conditions – depression, stress & schizophrenia
Anxiety is often linked with other conditions, like depression. Due to CBD’s interaction with serotonin receptors, this may possibly help improve mood and concentration in individuals.
The good news is that we have seen benefits in both, especially stress, with the use of CBD oil. But again, it has not been effective for everyone.
A recent review looked at existing research and concluded that CBD has anti-stress effects. From this, it may be possible that CBD is able to help reduce depression, as stress is one of the major causes of depression!
Another recent study conducted in 2016 found CBD to have strong antipsychotic effects in individuals with schizophrenia. A bonus is that no adverse side effects were observed after CBD use other than those commonly associated with drug treatments. Again, another promising result.
How could CBD possibly help anxiety?
CBD mainly works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is a complex group of endocannabinoids and receptors that affect mood and concentration.
Taking CBD allows naturally produced cannabinoids to remain in the body for longer, which may help promote a ‘calming effect’. When it does work, the result is increased feelings of relaxation, and, you guessed it, decreased feelings of anxiety.
As mentioned earlier, CBD can interact with serotonin receptors present in the brain. While CBD itself doesn’t boost serotonin levels, it can affect how the receptors respond to the serotonin already present. It makes sense then that taking CBD is a possible way to boost mood levels, decreasing anxiety feelings.
This is how some people even choose to manage their anxiety and depression with CBD.
How to use CBD oil for anxiety
Before trying out CBD oil for anxiety, it may be useful to talk to your GP or one of our experienced doctors. They will have the information necessary to determine whether taking CBD is the best option for you, alongside the correct dosage you may need.
Because there are so many CBD oils that doctors can prescribe, it can be good to do some research before purchasing CBD products. Worldwide, CBD comes in many forms, including tinctures and creams, each with different ways of absorption.
Like with any new incorporation into your regime, starting slow is important. While high-quality CBD products generally do not have side effects, everybody will react differently to CBD oil. Taking small amounts of CBD oil first is a good way of allowing your body to adjust, especially if you haven’t taken CBD products before.
Ultimately, talking to your GP about dosage is recommended since the effects of CBD will depend on your body composition and anxiety needs.
Does CBD have side effects?
While CBD is generally considered to have little to no side effects, some can still occur and should be noted. Side effects often depend on the person; however, common ones include appetite and weight changes. These effects are more likely to be experienced in those who haven’t had much experience with CBD products before.
Another reason that many side effects can occur is due to the quality of the CBD prescribed. Reputable CBD companies are always quality-tested, decreasing the chance of any contamination occurring in their products.
In conclusion, CBD oil has been shown to be a very safe, non intoxicating and non addictive option that may help in the treatment of anxiety, in both adults and children.
We use CBD oil daily to try and help support many Kiwis with anxiety and other mental health conditions. We have found that for many of our patients, their lives are improved and so is their sleep at night. For those on medications, some have managed to reduce or stop these over time when using medicinal cannabinoids for anxiety or other conditions. While it does not work for everyone and is an unapproved medicine, it nevertheless is an option that you may try.
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Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from anxiety please contact one of our experienced doctors here at the Cannabis Clinic to see if cannabis oil for anxiety might be an appropriate treatment option for you.