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Using CBD Oil for Anxiety: Does It Work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in cannabis (marijuana and hemp) plants. Early research is promising regarding the ability of CBD oil to help relieve anxiety.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another type of cannabinoid, CBD doesn’t cause any feelings of intoxication or the “high” you may associate with cannabis.

Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD oil for anxiety, and whether it could be a treatment option for you.

The human body has many different receptors. Receptors are protein-based chemical structures that are attached to your cells. They receive signals from different stimuli.

CBD is thought to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, respectively.

The exact way CBD affects CB1 receptors in the brain isn’t fully understood. However, it may alter serotonin signals.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are commonly associated with people who have depression. In some cases, not having enough serotonin may also cause anxiety.

The conventional treatment for low serotonin is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac). SSRIs are only available by prescription.

Some people with anxiety may be able to manage their condition with CBD instead of an SSRI. However, you should talk to your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan.

Several studies point to the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety.

For generalized anxiety

For generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animals such as rats.

Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, also improved.

More research needs to be done, specifically on humans and GAD.

For other forms of anxiety

CBD may also benefit people with other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It may help treat anxiety-induced insomnia as well.

In 2011, a study researched CBD’s effects on people with SAD. Participants were given an oral dose of 400 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo. Those who received CBD experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.

Multiple recent studies have shown that CBD can help with PTSD symptoms, such as having nightmares and replaying negative memories. These studies have looked at CBD as both a standalone PTSD treatment as well as a supplement to traditional treatments like medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

For other neurological disorders

CBD has also been studied in other neurological disorders.

A 2017 literature review on CBD and psychiatric disorders concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to tout CBD as an effective treatment for depression.

The authors did find some evidence to suggest that CBD could help with anxiety disorders. However, these studies were uncontrolled. This means that the participants weren’t compared to a separate group (or “control”) that might have received a different treatment — or no treatment at all.

Based on their review, more human tests are needed to better understand how CBD works, what the ideal dosages should be, and if there are potential side effects or hazards.

A 2016 study found that CBD can have antipsychotic effects in people with schizophrenia. Moreover, CBD doesn’t cause the significant debilitating side effects associated with some antipsychotic drugs.

If you’re interested in trying CBD oil for your anxiety, talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out a starting dosage that’s right for you.

However, the nonprofit National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) does advise that very few commercially available products contain enough CBD to replicate the therapeutic effects seen in clinical trials.

In a 2018 study, male subjects received CBD before undergoing a simulated public speaking test. The researchers found that an oral dose of 300 mg, administered 90 minutes before the test, was enough to significantly reduce the speakers’ anxiety.

Members of the placebo group and study subjects who received 150 mg saw little benefit. The same was true for subjects who received 600 mg.

The study only looked at 57 subjects, so it was small. More research, including studies that look at female subjects, is needed to determine the appropriate dosage for people with anxiety.

CBD is generally considered safe. However, some people who take CBD may experience some side effects, including:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

CBD may also interact with other medications or dietary supplements you’re taking. Exercise particular caution if you take medications, such as blood thinners, that come with a “grapefruit warning.” CBD and grapefruit both interact with enzymes that are important to drug metabolism.

One study on mice found that being gavaged with, or force-fed, CBD-rich cannabis extract increased their risk for liver toxicity. However, some of the study mice had been given extremely large doses of CBD.

You shouldn’t stop taking any medications you’re already using without talking to your doctor first. Using CBD oil may help your anxiety, but you could also experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking your prescription medications.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • irritability
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • fogginess

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

In some parts of the United States, CBD products are only allowed for specific medical purposes, such as the treatment of epilepsy. You may need to get a license from your doctor to be able to purchase CBD oil.

If cannabis is approved for medical use in your state, you may be able to purchase CBD oil online or in special cannabis clinics and dispensaries. Check out this guide to 10 of the best CBD oils on the market.

As research on CBD continues, more states may consider the legalization of cannabis products, leading to wider availability.

Find out what the research says about CBD oil and anxiety. Also get the facts on how it affects other disorders and its legal status.

The Truth About CBD And Withdrawal

A note from the publisher: Since the publication of this article, the FDA has approved a CBD-based prescription drug for two special types of epilepsy.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is undoubtedly a new and popular alternative therapy. Increasingly prescribed by herbalists, naturopaths and even conventional physicians, it’s used to treat any number of health issues, such as depression, epilepsy, anxiety, inflammation and addictions. But what about withdrawal symptoms after treatment is halted?

With this rise in popularity come the inevitable questions about its safety. After all, the opioid crisis is upon us, and many can remember a time when opioids were prescribed left, right and center without cause for concern. Is CBD safe to use? Is there such a thing as CBD withdrawal?

Two questions need explorating here. The first is whether CBD causes withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use; the second is whether it is an effective treatment for withdrawal from other substances, such as marijuana or opioids. Both are timely questions considering that CBD is often advertised as the all-natural cure-all with no side effects. Is this really true? Can it benefit the harsh effects of withdrawal from other substances without causing ill effects itself?

What Are the Side Effects of CBD

The first question to clear up is about CBD’s safety record. Have researchers uncovered serious health concerns about CBD use? There are thousands of studies on CBD’s potential, ranging from its anti-tumor characteristics to its antidepressant nature. Surely someone somewhere has uncovered the truth about CBD’s side effects.

All medicine, no matter how benign, has some risk of side effect. Hemp CBD oil is no different. A 2017 literature review of the subject of CBD safety concluded that “the most commonly reported side effects were tiredness, diarrhea, and changes of appetite/weight. In comparison with other drugs used for the treatment of these medical conditions, CBD has a better side effect profile.”

Cannabidiol is still going through an extensive preliminary research phase, but the information on side effects is quite promising. According to experts in the field, it looks as if CBD is entirely safe to use. Patients are given extremely high doses during clinical trials, but still tend to respond well to CBD therapy. It’s also a popular alternative for drug-resistant epilepsy in children.

Under normal conditions, CBD is safe to use even for the most sensitive segments of society. That said, it’s always best to discuss CBD use with a qualified medical professional. That’s particularly important if you are already taking prescription medications, are a parent exploring CBD for children, or you have other concerns. Make an appointment to cover all your bases. Learn more about the low-risk side effects of CBD here .

Does CBD Trigger Withdrawal?

As posted by one member of the CBD community on Reddit, “CBD, however, has not proven to be even remotely addicting [sic] or habit forming for m e . Still, though, zero dependency [sic] of any kind. It’s very nice to have because it helps my severe anxiety, but when I don’t have it, I find some of the mood boosting effects stay with me for quite some time. Days even. They fade so slowly that you hardly notice them going….It also helps that the effects are so mild and subtle, to begin with.”

As far as the research goes, there is no evidence of CBD withdrawal symptoms. Even compared with its famous cousin, THC, the difference of withdrawal symptoms is surprising. Medical marijuana still sells itself as safer to use than most pharmaceuticals, but heavy users report difficulty quitting. They also report going through withdrawal. Unlike THC heavy strains, there are no reported issues with tolerance, addiction or subsequent withdrawals from CBD.

CBD for Treating Withdrawals

Perhaps the most interesting use of CBD for treating withdrawal symptoms is for cannabis addiction. Yes, CBD and THC come from the same cannabis sativa family of plants, but CBD is used successfully to treat problems associated with prolonged THC use. Medical marijuana, while less habit-forming than other drugs, still carries a 9 percent addiction rate.

The University College of London has an ongoing clinical trial studying CBD as a possible therapy for severe cannabis addiction. The study was inspired by the pivotal case study of a profoundly addicted individual who cured her THC addiction with CBD therapy. More such cases exist, confirmed by a quick scan of the CBD community boards on Reddit. The ongoing trial could prove that CBD is a safe cannabinoid alternative to THC.

What about CBD for Opioid Withdrawal?

Conventional painkillers such as opioids are now very questionable prescriptions. The addiction crisis is visible from rural West Virginia to the downtown streets of Vancouver. Folks with a legitimate opioid prescription for chronic pain soon learn how quickly addiction can happen. No matter how badly someone may want to quit an opioid of choice, the withdrawal period is simply too powerful to overcome.

A typical withdrawal experience begins as quickly as four to six hours after the last dose. The first sign is usually a headache, followed quickly by increasingly severe and rapid onset of symptoms, including depression, fever, stomach cramping, diarrhea, sweating, problems sleeping, muscle pain and rapid heartbeat.

This is where CBD comes into play. Increasingly, research is honing in on its relevant characteristics for substance addiction. Of particular interest is its antipsychotic, antidepressant, anti-anxiety and pain-relieving properties, each explored extensively in other fields of study. These features are now of interest for treating severe drug-withdrawal symptoms.

A review in Substance Abuse , “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence,” proposed that CBD was useful for many phases of drug addiction. For example, during the intoxication phase (active phase of addiction) CBD reduces the reward-facilitation of opioids, or the euphoric sensation, and thus the fundamental addictiveness.

The review also concluded that during the withdrawal stage, CBD plays a vital role in reducing the severity of symptoms. It also notes that it seems to work better in combination with other cannabinoids, such as THC, taking advantage of the Entourage Effect .

Finally, and perhaps where CBD most shines for treating drug addiction, is the relapse phase, post-withdrawal. In one animal study included in the literature review, morphine-addicted mice benefited significantly from CBD treatment in the relapse phase. Cannabidiol therapy reduced the morphine-seeking behavior for up to two weeks when compared with the control group that received no CBD.

In study after study, CBD continues to be proven safe to use even in high doses. As far as we know, there are no reported instances of CBD withdrawal. Plus, it may prove to be one of the safest therapies available for those going through the withdrawal phase of drug addiction. According to current research, it’s already thought to have a positive benefit during the intoxication phase, the withdrawal phase and the relapse phase.

SOL*CBD explores whether CBD causes withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use; and whether it is an effective treatment for withdrawal from other substances.