Anxiety and depression are both dreadful conditions. But when you ask sufferers, many would say anxiety is worse. When you’re anxious, severely anxious, over time you become disabled. You can do your regular routines, you can’t go out and meet with friends, work. Pretty soon you’re not accomplishing anything and that can be very depressing. So, anxiety often turns into depression.
However, unlike depression where you can have antidepressants, which you can take for a long period of time (assuming they work for you) anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines are habit-forming – or can be. You can become dependent on them very quickly. So, as a result, many psychiatrists these days are reluctant to prescribe them.
Is there an alternative? Maybe. CBD is garnering interest as a potential safe, non-addictive treatment for anxiety.
CBD enters the public conscience
The story behind CBD oil is quite interesting. Few people had heard of it but that all changed in 2013 when 60 Minutes featured the story of a six-year-old girl named Charlotte Figi from Colorado.
Charlotte suffered from a rare, severe form of epilepsy called “Dravet Syndrome.” She was having 300 grand mal seizures a week, some lasting several hours. Her parents had sought help from multiple specialists without success. Nobody knew what to do.
And then someone suggested using cannabis and because medical cannabis is legal in Colorado they found a grower and received a strain that was very high in CBD and very low in THC. And they gave it to the girl.
The doctors were quite skeptical, but sure enough, the seizures stopped for an hour, then for a week, and pretty soon the girl was healed. Her parents reported Charlotte’s seizures had gone from 300 a week to one.
So this strain of medical cannabis is called Charlotte’s Web. Its creators – several brothers from Colorado – have developed a foundation where they give Charlotte’s Web free to people who need it. And it’s a wonderful thing they’re doing because, CBD is not cheap. (It takes a lot of land, raw plant material and expertise to extract a small amount of oil).
So good for Charlotte and good for humanity that the substance was discovered.
Taking CBD for anxiety
Increasingly, anxiety sufferers are learning about the possible benefits of taking CBD to reduce their anxiety levels.
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of over one hundred natural compounds found in cannabis (and hemp). CBD is not cannabis. Cannabis is a plant whereas Cannabidiol is just one compound found in that plant. In addition, CBD will not get you “high” (the psychoactive component of cannabis is THC, not CBD). So, unlike smoking pot, when you take CBD oil, you don’t feel anything.
One often described anti-anxiety drug is clonazepam (brand name, Klonopin). It’s a benzodiazepine (“benzo”), a class of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for a spectrum of mental disorders and ailments.
Here’s the problem. Clonazepam is highly addictive, with some people becoming addicted to it in as little as a few weeks. Many people have become addicted to clonazepam taking only the amount prescribed by their doctor. Once a person is addicted to the drug, their brain can no longer produce feelings of relaxation and calmness without it. Clonazepam addiction starts when the user builds a tolerance to the drug, which means they need larger doses to get the same effects they once had with smaller doses. Some users then start taking more than they were prescribed, or using the drug just to get high.
Given the huge potential downside to clonazepam, it makes sense to try safe, non-addictive CBD. CBD oil is an anti-seizure medication (like clonazepam) – and so should help with anxiety.
A personal account of taking CBD for anxiety
I have been using CBD oil early for a year now. I’ve been experienced quite a lot of anxiety due to stressors in my life. I was having a hard time sleeping. I started to take a dropper of CBD at bedtime and again if needed when I woke up too early in the morning. The CBD oil greatly reduced my anxiety and had a nice side effect – or side benefit – of reducing joint pain as well. I would awake rested, never groggy after taking it.
One night I woke up at four in the morning as anxiety sufferers often do with, in a panic and in fear. My heart was beating rapidly. Normally I just lie down there and breath and try to calm myself down. But this time I reached for the CBD, put three drops under my tongue and started to notice that my heart rate began to slow down. And as my heart rate slowed down. I felt more relaxed and my muscles were less tense.
And within about 10 minutes I was back to sleep.
So it really took the edge off the anxiety and got me back asleep a lot quicker than I would have had if I hadn’t taken it. Fortunately, I haven’t had very many of those awakenings, but when I do, I have the oil by my bedside to use in case it happens.
An acquaintance I know mentioned to me that he’s been using CBD oil to replace Xanax – the anti-anxiety drug.
He says at night it helps him breathe more easily, relaxed the muscles of his chest and as he breathes deeply. He can relax more and go to sleep.
Finally, CBD is a potential tool in the battle against opioid addiction with an increasing number of people using CBD as an alternative post-surgery painkiller – rather than run the nightmarish risk of opioid addiction. So CBD has many, many uses.
Is CBD addictive?
No, CBD itself is not addictive. But bear in mind what it is combined with, i.e. you can become addicted to what the CBD is mixed with rather than the CBD itself.
The key is to know what you’re taking. If you’re just taking pure CBD oil derived from the hemp it is not addictive.
Full-spectrum versus THC-free CBD oil
In the UK, CBD can contain no more than 0.2% THC. Oil with CBD and trace THC is known as “full-spectrum oil”. You can also have THC-free oil, suitable for those who are drug-tested at work or professional competition.
If given the choice (i.e. work and personal responsibilities allowing) take the full-spectrum oil. In the UK, as long as the THC content does not exceed 0.2%, it is legal. At this low level, there is no psychoactive effect but the THC still helps increase the effectiveness of CBD via the so-called entourage effect. (The total benefit is greater than the sum of its parts).
What forms does CBD take?
CBD is commonly in the form of an oil which administer under the tongue. But CBD also comes in the form of pills, chewable edibles, vape cartridges, balms and beverages.
However, the amount and quality of CBD oil and these products can vary greatly. Vaping and oil offers the highest levels of bioavailability, i.e. how much CBD your body can usefully use.
What conditions can CBD oil treat?
Research is ongoing but there is already a large volume of scientific evidence that CBD has promising potential to alleviate many conditions. It’s important to note that findings are varied – more research is required – and CBD is not a cure for the following, only a potential avenue of relief in some cases.
The list of conditions that could potentially benefit from CBD is long but the main ones include: pain management, diabetes, addiction, anxiety, epilepsy/seizures, insomnia, stress, fibromyalgia, inflammation, mood disorders, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD and more.
How can a single oil do so much? That’s a good question. The fact is, CBD is not “doing” anything. It’s fuelling your endocannabinoid system and it’s this system that brings about the remarkable health benefits.
So people are investigating CBD oil for a variety of conditions. Nothing definitive has come yet but it has proven its effectiveness in certain areas and as world interest and research into CBD increases, no doubt further exciting discoveries will be uncovered.
Is CBD right for you?
That is a decision only you can make with the help of your doctor. If you are on other medication, have the conversation with your GP. If you want a few hours between your medication and taking CBD, there shouldn’t be a problem.