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Cbd oil for panic anxiety disorder

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks: does CBD work?

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks occur because of stress and anxiety. According to WHO (World Health Organization) figures, anxiety disorders affect nearly 260 million people worldwide. Anxiety disorders manifest themselves as a feeling of insecurity that, over time, can become permanent. On a daily basis, people with anxiety suffer from panic attacks or anxiety attacks, intense episodes where they feel vulnerable and unsafe, gripped by a sudden and irrational fear.

For the past few years, CBD (cannabidiol) has been well known for reducing anxiety and inhibiting fear. Many people have embraced CBD to reduce their stress and anxiety levels on a daily basis, as it is a natural solution and far more effective than most drug treatments.

So, if you too are looking for a natural alternative to end your panic attacks, you might be interested in the soothing properties of medical cannabis. From the very first time you take it, it can help you release tension, lighten your mind, and banish anxiety from your thoughts. How do anxiety disorders manifest themselves? How can CBD reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and how to consume it properly to enjoy its benefits quickly? All the information about CBD and anxiety can be found below.

What is anxiety?

Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, manifest as a sudden, intense feeling of fear. In the body, the fear can develop in milliseconds. That’s enough time to alarm your brain and trigger an attack. When it comes to anxiety, there are 3 types of disorders to differentiate:

  • Panic Attacks: From an outside perspective, a panic attack may look very impressive, but in reality, it is not dangerous to your health. People who suffer from panic attacks may start crying, shaking, breathing harder, and feel completely frightened. Sometimes a trigger is the cause of the attack: an argument, a noisy place, an increase in stress, etc. But other times, they can happen for no apparent reason: at work, in class, or even at the movies. Shortness of breath, palpitations, sweating, dizziness. These are the main symptoms of an anxiety attack. If you see someone starting an attack, you need to reassure and comfort them, without smothering them.
  • Phobias: Anxiety disorders can also result in phobias. For example, a claustrophobic person is highly likely to have an anxiety attack if you lock him or her up for hours in an enclosed space, whether it’s a concert hall or a plane. Some people also suffer from social phobia and have great difficulty fitting in with groups. When fear and anxiety take over, they may experience nausea, headaches, and stomach aches.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Generalized anxiety is when the feeling of anxiety becomes constant. Every day, people suffering from this generalized disorder are afraid of everything and are very nervous. This daily anxiety results in headaches, muscle tension, sleep disturbances and lack of concentration.

Why take CBD to combat anxiety?

To begin with, it is essential to remember that CBD is one of the many cannabinoids in hemp that, unlike THC, does not provide any psychoactive effects. Thus, people suffering from anxiety can consume CBD without the risk of aggravating their case. Cannabis with THC could actually promote anxiety in some consumers.

For scientific researchers, CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system, specifically with the 5-HT1A, GPR55, CB1 and CB2 receptors. Thus, CBD helps regulate the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, meaning it promotes pleasure and good mood, while alleviating stress and anxiety.

Thanks to CBD, many people suffering from anxiety have been able to regain a sense of calm and relaxation on a daily basis. Used wisely, CBD allows to evacuate irrational fears and to limit the appearance of anxiety attacks.

What do scientists think about CBD for treating anxiety?

In 2011, a clinical study conducted at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil highlighted the positive effect of CBD on the limbic and paralimbic parts of the brain. The researchers tested CBD on several participants suffering from anxiety. One group received CBD, while the other received a placebo. Only the participants who received CBD noticed a significant improvement and thus, an anxiety-reducing effect.

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In 2015 in New York, another scientific study was conducted to prove the effectiveness of CBD on all types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks. Their conclusion is simple: the positive effects of CBD are quick, and they are long lasting.

More recently, in 2016, Spanish researchers conducted some animal experiments to show that CBD could improve the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Once again, the results reveal the huge potential of therapeutic cannabis to relieve anxiety disorders.

How to take CBD to avoid panic attacks?

How often?

Unlike traditional drug treatments, CBD does not need to be taken daily to be effective. In fact, people suffering from panic attacks can be content to take CBD only when the need arises. For those who suffer from generalized anxiety, daily or at least more frequent use may be helpful. Depending on your type of anxiety and the intensity of your attacks, it is up to you to know when you need it. You can take it every day, or once a month. It doesn’t matter, as long as the CBD is doing you good.

At what dosage?

As for the dosage, it is up to you to find the one that suits you best, depending on how you feel and the intensity of your anxiety. Whatever happens, always start with the lowest dose, and if necessary, you can increase it little by little. Starting with a small amount and a low level of CBD is the best way to obtain optimal soothing effects.

In what form?

Generally, anxious people need a quick action to relieve their crises, which is why they prefer CBD oil. It allows a precise and fast dosage, thanks to the pipette which allows to pour a few drops under the tongue. The relaxing effects appear in a few minutes and can last several hours.

Otherwise, you can also spray flowers or CBD resin if you prefer inhalation. And finally, you can make herbal teas with CBD. The most important thing is to find a form of CBD that is not a strain for you.

Can CBD cause anxiety?

Some people think that CBD can cause anxiety, as they are referring to cannabis in general. It is true that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive molecule that can cause palpitations and anxiety. But rest assured, CBD-based products are completely THC-free, as they meet European standards.

Can CBD cure anxiety disorders?

No, CBD does not cure any disease. On the other hand, it relieves, it helps, and it accompanies the patients towards a soft and natural healing process. CBD is not a medicine, but it can significantly improve your daily life by reducing many symptoms of anxiety.

How To Use CBD To Help Alleviate Anxiety

Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

Table of Contents

  • CBD for Anxiety
  • How to Use CBD for Anxiety
  • CBD Dosage for Anxiety
  • Potential Risks and Side Effects

While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have a bad rap for being intoxicating and anxiety-inducing, cannabidiol (CBD) can actually be used to relieve anxiety. Research supports this benefit, with several studies reinforcing the positive effects CBD can have on various anxiety conditions. In fact, 51% of U.S. adults who use CBD do so to help alleviate their anxiety, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

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CBD isn’t yet legally cleared as an anxiolytic, or anxiety relief medication. Therefore, it’s up to you—and, ideally, a doctor who specializes in cannabis administration—to determine whether CBD is a safe treatment for your anxiety.

Here’s what the science says regarding CBD’s anxiolytic properties, along with experts’ dosage guidelines and advice on how to take CBD safely.

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CBD for Anxiety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any CBD-based medications for anxiety. However, many studies indicate the substance can be an effective anxiolytic.

CBD for Generalized Anxiety

In 2011, a small trial-tested CBD on participants with generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) and healthy control patients undergoing a simulated public speaking test (SPST), which is a common anxiety testing method [1] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. . Compared to a placebo, CBD significantly reduced anxiety and discomfort in the participants with SAD. In fact, their reduced anxiety levels were comparable to those of the control participants.

Eight years later, a 2019 test compared the efficacy of three CBD doses (150 milligrams, 300 milligrams and 600 milligrams) and a placebo in men taking an SPST [2] Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14. . Compared to a placebo, 300 milligrams of CBD significantly reduced participants’ anxiety during the speech, but the 150-milligram and 600-milligram doses did not. These results highlight how dosage can be highly variable and that more CBD isn’t necessarily more effective.

Meanwhile, another 2019 study tested CBD in much lower doses than most other clinical studies—some participants consumed 25 milligrams a day while others consumed 50 milligrams or 75 milligrams a day [3] Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. . Researchers thought higher doses might be too expensive for participants to maintain in their normal lives and that low doses would still prove effective. Indeed, anxiety decreased within the first month for most participants and remained low. Sleep quality also improved, although it fluctuated more than anxiety. Only three patients reported side effects.

CBD for Anxiety and Depression

In 2020, researchers tested the effects of CBD oil at varying doses across 397 patients with a variety of ailments [4] Gulbransen G, Xu W, Arroll B. Cannabidiol prescription in clinical practice: an audit on the first 400 patients in New Zealand. BJGP Open. 2020;4(1):bjgpopen20X101010. . Participants with non-cancer pain or mental health-related symptoms experienced significant improvement in anxiety and depression, as well as in their abilities to complete their usual activities. The use of CBD oil suggested significant pain relief in these groups as well.

CBD for PTSD and Phobia Therapy

A small 2019 study of 11 patients found that, when consumed orally and administered alongside routine psychiatric care, CBD decreased patients’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity [5] Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397. .

Other studies suggest CBD can reduce PTSD symptoms when consumed with THC [6] Bitencourt RM, Takahashi RN. Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:502. . When taken together, the two compounds create what’s known as the “entourage effect,” where THC enhances the effects of CBD as CBD tempers the effects of THC, resulting in a more well-rounded experience [7] Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, et al. The “Entourage Effect”. Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(2):87-96. .

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Some studies also suggest CBD can enhance the effects of exposure therapy—which assists patients in dissociating certain cues with a fear response—and cognitive behavioral therapy [8] Das RK, Kamboj SK, Ramadas M, et al. Cannabidiol enhances consolidation of explicit fear extinction in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(4):781-792. [9] Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. .

How to Use CBD for Anxiety

Without clear FDA guidance, optimal CBD use for anxiety varies from person to person. You may find one method works better for you over another. You can consume CBD in the following forms:

  • Oils and tinctures, which come in dropper bottles and are consumed by mouth
  • Gummies, which are chewable, sweet and often fruit-flavored
  • Sprays, which come in bottles with a nozzle to be sprayed in the mouth
  • Capsules, softgels or tablets, which are taken individually by mouth like a pill
  • Vapes, which heat CBD oil without igniting it, resulting in an inhalable vapor
  • Flowers, which are dried hemp plants that are typically ignited and smoked
  • Creams and gels, which introduce CBD topically (through the skin) as a more localized treatment

You may have to try different forms to determine what works best in addressing your anxiety. For instance, when it comes to the absorption of CBD in your bloodstream, vaping and smoking are more effective than edibles like gummies.

CBD Dosage for Anxiety

You also have to find the right CBD dosage for your anxiety. Experts suggest starting small and working your way up depending on how your body reacts.

Many clinical trials jump right to testing high doses. Successful doses evaluated for anxiety relief specifically include:

  • 600 milligrams in patients with SAD in a speech simulation [10] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226.
  • 300 milligrams in male patients in a speech simulation [11] Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14.

However, other trials suggest much lower doses are also quite effective in treating anxiety.

  • 25 to 75 milligrams for generalized anxiety and/or sleep problems [12] Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041.
  • 33 to 49 milligrams a day for PTSD, in addition to routine psychiatric treatment [13] Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397.

Another study involving hundreds of patients noted success with doses from 40 milligrams to 300 milligrams a day, further supporting the idea that CBD dosage varies significantly, depending on a person’s symptoms and physiology.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

The World Health Organization deems CBD a safe and generally well-tolerated substance. Studies report very few adverse effects, if any.

However, taking CBD while on other medications may pose a risk, as these substances may interact and cause unwanted effects, such as weight gain, drowsiness, upset stomach and change in appetite.

Cheryl Bugailiskis, M.D., a cannabis specialist at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine, also warns people with preexisting liver injuries and people taking medications that can cause liver injuries should practice caution when using CBD.