Anxiety affects a significant portion of Americans.
The US Department of Health and Human Services states that 35 percent of middle-class Americans have dealt with a physical symptom of stress including anxiety.[i]
That number is not only too high, it’s part of a circular challenge between stressors and our medical responses that doesn’t seem to be improving, no matter how advanced our progress in medical care truly is.
Stress creates a breeding ground for disease in our bodies connected to our individual and collective psychologies, and when it becomes too significant, we slip into an anxious state, not only as individuals but as a nation. Our high rate of anxiety changes the way we treat one another and the policies we adopt, and even could be said to ramp up our conflict with each other and with other nations around the world. In the United States, however, physicians treat our mental health issues such as anxiety with prescription opioids, antidepressants, amphetamines and other drugs. And anxiety therefore breeds anxiety: the side effects of these drugs often actually include anxiety, in addition to serious health issues such as kidney damage, heart problems, and mental health issues that include suicidal and homicidal tendencies as well as the risk for psychosis.
We’ve found, however, that cannabidiol (CBD) can help address mental health issues that are caused by misfiring impulses in the brain related to the nervous system, especially those caused by stress, and can shift our bodies and minds away from anxiety.
Specifically, CBD can decrease anxiety through the reduction of anxiety by driving down muscular tension, restlessness, and fatigue, as well as problems in concentration, social interactions and stress, according to the latest evidence posted by the World Health Organization in Geneva.[ii]
CBD can also decrease the most virulent forms of anxiety, such as those that affect people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). New field research published in 2018 shows that a CBD therapy plan can alleviate and even eliminate bad memories, also known as “flashbacks,” for those with acute PTSD.[iii] It can relieve the inability to sleep, as well as reduce anxiety, for children who have PTSD.[iv] Taken in combination with talk therapy, it can be helpful for families with high levels of anxiety who are recovering from the effects of trauma.[v]
How does it work? Dr. Andrea Furlan, associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto and a staff physician and senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, explains that our new focus on CBD and carefully measured doses can help people switch away from dangerous levels of opioids and other drugs, which are often prescribed for anxiety even though they are not effective in most cases. Microtapering, Furlan explains, is a way of slowly getting opioid drugs out of the system and replacing them with CBD. This helps the body to not only repair its central nervous system, but it also decreases the strain of switching to a different medical plan.
“The most common symptom of getting off opioids is extreme anxiety; almost everyone will have it,” Furlan says. “They feel agitated, they can’t sleep or relax, concentrate; they have psychomotor agitation and they can’t stop moving their arms or legs, and it can last a couple days, weeks or months. It depends on how long they have been on opioids and how strong.”
Using CBD for anxiety instead of opioids, or to replace a reliance on other kinds of mental health drugs, works because it eases all of these symptoms while opening up our neurological receptors so that the body can rest, relax and heal on its own. Over time, therefore, anxiety abates.
Our medical system, as it stands, does not require medical students or doctors to spend time learning about preventative care to the extent that they may be able to help people prevent anxiety before it sets in. Our medical care framework is based on reactive care instead.
What CBD offers, on the other hand, is a pathway to wellness that can ease the potential for anxiety, and therefore ease the complications from other mental health conditions.
I believe that change will come, and that we can decrease our anxiety by taking preventative care seriously. CBD is only one route, but it is one that I believe is worth exploration.
[i] Dickler, J. (2011). Economy makes people sick, literally. CNN, June 7. Retrieved from https://money.cnn.com/2011/06/07/pf/financial_stress_health/index.htm.
[ii] Adapted from World Health Organisation. (2017). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Pre-Review Report. Geneva: Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, Nov 6–10.
[iii] Bitencourt, R. M., & Takahashi, R. N. (2018). Cannabidiol as a therapeutic alternative for post-traumatic stress disorder: from bench research to confirmation in human trials. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 502.
[iv] Shannon, S., & Opila-Lehman, J. (2016). Effectiveness of cannabidiol oil for pediatric anxiety and insomnia as part of posttraumatic stress disorder: a case report. The Permanente Journal, 20(4), 108.
[v] Loflin, M. J., Babson, K. A., & Bonn-Miller, M. O. (2017). Cannabinoids as therapeutic for PTSD. Current opinion in Psychology, 14, 78–83.