By / March 12, 2024

Cannabis Products Rich in CBD May Effectively Ease Anxiety

A recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder found that cannabis products rich in the non-intoxicating compound CBD (cannabidiol) can more effectively alleviate anxiety symptoms than products high in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), without the potential side effects.

The study, published in the journal “Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research,” is the first randomized test to examine the impact of legal, commercially available cannabis products on anxiety symptoms.

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Growing Interest in Cannabis Among Adults

The study indicates that one in five adults in the USA suffers from anxiety disorders, making it the most common mental illness in the country. This has led to an increase in prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications. “We need more data to make definitive statements about long-term, beneficial effects, but the short-term effects were very clear: CBD was associated with relief in tension and anxiety with limited harm,” said lead author Cinnamon Bidwell, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and at the Institute for Cognitive Science.

First Study of Its Kind

Adults identify anxiety as one of the top three medical reasons (alongside sleep and pain) for turning to cannabis for relief. However, previous research on their effectiveness has been mixed. Some suggested that frequent use of cannabis or the use of potent THC-rich products could worsen anxiety in the long run. Other studies have shown that adding CBD to THC-rich products could counteract some of their negative effects, including disorders and paranoia that may occur right after use.

Surprising Results

To better understand the distinct short- and long-term effects of CBD and THC (the two main cannabinoids, or active ingredients of cannabis), the research team recruited 300 people with anxiety: 42 were non-cannabis users; 258 had tried it at some point. The larger group was assigned to use one of three flower products: a THC-dominant product (24% THC and 1% CBD); a CBD-dominant product (1% THC, 24% CBD); or a product with 12% CBD and 12% THC.

Over four weeks, participants could use the cannabis products as often and in as much quantity as they wanted. On average, study participants used their assigned products three times a week.

At the end of the study period, all four groups reported reduced anxiety. However, the cannabis groups noted greater reductions in perceived anxiety than the non-cannabis group, and those using CBD-dominant products showed the greatest improvement.

“These findings suggest that THC did not increase anxiety in the long term and that CBD-dominant forms of cannabis were associated with immediate tension reduction, which may translate into long-term reduction in anxiety symptoms,” said Gregory Giordano, a research professional assistant at CU Center for Health and Neuroscience, Genes and Environment (CUChange).

Bidwell noted that CBD has greater anti-inflammatory properties than THC, so it’s possible that CBD-dominant products may reduce anxiety by alleviating inflammation in the brain and nerves. However, even a small amount of THC – 1% – can also quickly impact mood.

“Our study suggests that CBD products can provide relief in anxiety at the moment for adults who use them, and perhaps in the long term, significantly and without the need to produce the same risks or harms associated with THC or prescription medications,” said Bidwell. “We need more data before we can make final recommendations, but these are promising news.”

Conclusion and Future Research Directions

In summary, this study provides important clues about the potential of CBD-rich cannabis products as a means of alleviating anxiety. Although further research is needed to make definitive recommendations, these results are promising for individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. This opens the door to further research into the therapeutic possibilities of cannabis, especially in the context of easing anxiety without the risk associated with traditional anti-anxiety medications or the side effects related to THC.

(Featured image by Kimzy Nanney via Unsplash)

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