CBD products began appearing on the high street two years ago and has gained huge traction in the health world. It’s available in a range of different forms, from oil to water, and is believed by users to aid a range of health conditions. Since its emergence, one of its most popular uses has been to treat anxiety. But what do doctors recommend for anyone with the condition wanting to try it?
Dr Ife Abiola, who works in Canada, where cannabis is now legal for both recreational and medicinal purposes, and Dr Andrew Thonber, chief medical officer at Now Patient, offered Express.co.uk their advice.
What is CBD?
CBD derives from the cannabis plant. Cannabis has been largely represented by the active ingredient that causes a high – a cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
But another cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) gained popularity with claims of being non-intoxicating while providing benefits for inflammation and anxiety.
Dr Abiola explained: “CBD can be used in many different forms, many of which do not necessitate smoking.
“It’s commonly consumed orally in oil form. Ingestion of an oil allows for the dose to be controlled and offers a longer duration of action. Its effects can be felt within an hour and last up to six hours.
“Typically, CBD oil is used in the morning and afternoon to span the course of the day and the dose is started a low dose and increased slowly depending on the patient’s condition.
“The majority of frequent (daily) CBD users find that a dose between 10 and 20 mg (administered once or twice daily) is enough to provide effective relief from a variety of ailments.”
CBD can be smoked in dried-plant form also, but may come with a health risk.
Dr Abiola said: “The effects of smoking are felt within minutes and the effects last two to four hours. The problem with smoking CBD cannabis is that dosing is less accurate, and the negative effects of smoke cannot be avoided.”
How is CBD thought to help with anxiety?
Dr Thornber said CBD oil has all the benefits of anti-anxiety medications without the side effects.
He added: “Evidence also suggests that CBD can activate hippocampus neurogenesis, to regenerate new neurons.
“Multiple studies have found CBD oil to be an effective treatment for social anxiety and is a natural anxiolytic (anxiety calmer).”
A small 2010 study found cannabidiol could reduce symptoms of social anxiety in people with social anxiety disorder.
Brain scans of participants revealed changes in blood flow to the regions of the brain linked to feelings of anxiety.
In this study, cannabidiol not only made participants feel better but also changed the way their brains responded to anxiety.
A 2011 study also found that cannabidiol could reduce social anxiety. For this study, researchers looked specifically at cannabidiol to treat anxiety associated with public speaking.
According to Dr Abiola, CBD oil is generally well tolerated and considered safe.
He explained: “Many anti-anxiety drugs work by modulating the receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), however CBD works through a few different mechanisms. CBD regulates GABA through another receptor site, and also raises the level of cannabinoids our bodies naturally create such as anandamide and 2-AG.
“The cannabinoids will regulate things like pain sensation, appetite and even mood. CBD inhibits an enzyme called amide hydrolase that would otherwise degrade our natural cannabinoids, ultimately more of these cannabinoids means a reduction in anxiety.”
Do doctor’s advise you take CBD to help your anxiety?
CBD isn’t necessarily for everyone, advises Dr Abiola, as there has been some reporting of fatigue and sleep disturbance in individuals using a CBD based pharmaceutical for seizures called Epidiolex.
He added: “Some patients who have used CBD oil report lightheadedness and even syncope (fainting).
“These side-effects are rare but can pose a risk for certain people. Speaking with a physician before beginning CBD is strongly recommended as CBD could potentially interfere with the metabolism of other medications.”
Dr Thornber also advised: “I would always talk to your GP before taking any medication to discuss your own medical needs and potential side effects.
“Research is still limited about the actual effectiveness and long-term impact on health. Like with any medication, patients should be careful not to consume too much and for pro-longed periods without chatting to their GP.”
Blair Gibbs, Policy Lead at the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC), said the growing public interest in CBD has yet to be validated by sufficient good quality research but that is not to say the health benefits are not real.
He explained: “Most of the studies are small scale and until recently, many cannabinoid scientists focused their research projects on other areas like THC.
“Many countries are experiencing a surge in consumer interest in CBD products so before long there are likely to be more studies into the potential benefits.
“Beyond research, we also need more routine supplier batch testing so we can ensure CBD products are uncontaminated and only contain what they state on the label.”
Cannabis-based products have become available to buy online, but their quality and content is not known.
The NHS warns: “They may be illegal and potentially dangerous.
“Some products that might claim to be medical cannabis, such as “CBD oil” or hemp oil, are available to buy legally as food supplements from health stores. But there’s no guarantee these are of good quality or provide any health benefits.”