Anxiety symptoms affect millions of adults in the United States. In 2020, the rates of anxiety and depression among young adults increased dramatically. Many experts identify the current era as a crisis in mental health.
Understanding the Stakes
In September 2020, as many as 8 in 10 people who took an anxiety screening test reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms. Anxiety is always unpleasant, but the cost to anxiety sufferers can be dramatic. For some, anxiety can escalate into disabling panic that can limit their ability to perform daily tasks. For others, the costs may be more subtle, but a long-term pattern of sleepless nights, reduced energy and focus, and lost productivity can accumulate to result in long-term damage to your health and well-being.
Chronic stress and anxiety have a significant negative impact on physical health. The stress hormone cortisol contributes to excessive weight gain and inflammation, in part by causing a craving for high-carbohydrate food and disrupting healing sleep. These physiological effects of elevated cortisol can compound the problem, as excess weight and inflammation lead to pain and reduced energy, which can further disrupt daily functions and add to stress and anxiety.
Choose Your Fighter: CBD
One promising treatment for both acute and chronic anxiety is cannabidiol (CBD.) A growing number of anxiety sufferers are finding immediate relief with fast-acting CBD vape juice that works quickly to knock out the anxiety. Because CBD also has protective effects on the nervous system with its anti-oxidant and pain-relieving qualities, those who use the fast-acting inhaled vapor may follow it up with longer-lasting edible preparations or topical creams. Because CBD can also reduce insomnia, it mitigates the effects of anxiety in at least three ways: by acting directly to lower anxiety, by reducing inflammation and pain associated with stress, and by reducing sleep disruptions that result from anxiety and contribute to worsening symptoms.
CBD is relatively new to the western medicine world. Because it is derived from cannabis plants (which include both hemp and marijuana,) CBD was only recently made legal at a federal level in the U.S. and is still illegal in some states. There is a misconception the CBD products will impair your function and make you “high.” This misconception is due to a different cannabis compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.)
THC is responsible for the euphoria and cognitive impairment that the marijuana plant is known to produce. While THC also has some medicinal use, it has a different mechanism of action and different effects from CBD. Sometimes used in concert, the two substances are distinct and CBD is relatively available in preparations without any THC at all.
When anxiety causes severe distress or impairments or is combined with other disabling conditions such as depression, psychiatric medications may be prescribed to control the symptoms and improve mood. Psychiatric medicines can produce life-changing positive effects, but they also carry a significant risk of side effects.
In addition, the process of finding the right dosage of the right medicine can involve an uncomfortable amount of trial and error, even with the help of a supportive expert. CBD can reduce anxiety symptoms naturally, with fewer side effects than medication. To the extent that it can safely reduce or even eliminate the need for stronger medications, CBD can be useful as a complementary treatment or even on its own.
Evidence That It Works
In one randomized controlled study, healthy men without any history of clinical anxiety were subjected to a situation that reliably provokes moderate to severe anxiety symptoms in most people: public speaking. They measured both blood pressure and self-reported anxiety symptoms and found a significant reduction in anxiety for those who received a moderate dose of CBD. This study replicates the results of several previous studies demonstrating reduced anxiety as a result of taking CBD.
Evidence is also mounting to support CBD’s ability to mitigate sleep disorders. While CBD itself does not cause drowsiness, when taken before sleep it appears to improve both falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. To specifically address sleep, CBD is sometimes combined with melatonin or cannabinol (CBN,) a different cannabis compound that does induce drowsiness.
CBD also has documented effectiveness in treating pain and inflammation. Inflammation and pain can be a secondary effect of chronic anxiety, or they could be the source of the anxiety itself. In either case, a treatment that can address both with little to no side effects can have a tremendously positive effect on health.