It has been said in recent years that certain cultivars or ‘strains’ of the domestic plant Cannabis sativa have a positive effect on people suffering from anxiety and related issues. These strains are often those which are said to have a high content of CBD.
Anxiety – A Modern Epidemic?
Anxiety is an evolutionary response mechanism – an evolved trait. It is closely related to fear and helps humans and other animals to respond to danger, threats, and life-or-death situations. In the distant past, this strategy proved evolutionarily successful for early humans. Those humans who remained anxious after sensing a possible threat would have stayed alert to any further danger. As an example: Human A sees a lion footprint and spends the rest of the say racked with anxiety. Human A is constantly looking over their shoulder and so makes it home to pass on their genes – and their tendency for anxiety. Human B sees the same footprint and gets a bad fright, but soon forgets and walks on stress-free. Human B is then eaten by the lion, having not been alert.
This is roughly how the propensity for anxiety evolved. Our genes have changed very little, if at all since our hunter-gatherer days. We have therefore the disposition to have anxiety, even when in situations of no physical danger. In the modern world, we are generally not in danger, so anxiety is a severe disadvantage, leading to distraction, stress, and irrational worries. Anxiety can also lead to bowel and stomach problems, high blood pressure, immune response, respiratory issues, and general ill health.
CBD and Anxiety – The Evidence
CBD – cannabidiol – has been attracting interest as a treatment for neuropsychiatric disorders. Preclinical evidence has strongly suggested that CBD is a potential treatment for a number of neurological and psychological disorders – including anxiety. There are at least two major cannabinoids in the Cannabis sativa plant that have an impact on the brain; CBD and Δ-9Tetrahydrocannabinol or Δ-9THC – a commonly known psychoactive compound. One of the earliest psychopharmacological uses of CBD to be discovered was its positive action on the negative effects of Δ-9THC.
It was found in 1982 and subsequently that CBD has a strong impact on anxiety and other psychological effects of Δ-9THC. CBD is, therefore, a potential treatment for those suffering the ill effects of Δ-9THC exposure. Since then, CBD has shown preclinical potential to counter the effects of generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, social anxiety and PTSD through acute administration.
Although the data does not say conclusively that CBD is an effective chronic anxiety cure, the current evidence is promising and research is still ongoing. Much anecdotal evidence and first-hand accounts seem to suggest that CBD may prove useful in chronic use as well as acute doses. As more evidence emerges, we may see CBD becoming an ever more important tool in dealing with anxiety.