You’ve probably come across a lot of discussions and anecdotes about cannabidiol, also known as CBD, in recent years. CBD availability and sales have increased in the United States since it was federally legalized and is now legal in most states.
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You can find CBD on the shelves of many stores, with several brands promoting benefits ranging from pain relief to sleep aids. It also comes in many forms such as CBD jelly beans, CBD oils, CBD lotions and even soft drinks with CBD infusion. And one big statement from CBD supporters is its ability to relieve anxiety, a feeling many of us have experienced in recent years thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But not all CBD is created equal, and the truth about the benefits is a little, well, complicated. To learn more about whether or not CBD slows down anxiety and what else you should know before trying it, we spoke with psychiatrist David Streem, MD.
What is CBD?
“CBD is one of the chemicals in cannabis-containing plants,” says Dr. Streem. CBD comes primarily from hemp and mostly contains very small traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that causes marijuana to be “high”. In fact, the US government limits hemp-derived products with a THC content of more than 0.3%.
As for the proven health benefits, there is some evidence that CBD could serve as a treatment for chronic pain, but the data is still mixed. More substantially, however, says Dr. Streem, “CBD has particular health benefits that have been shown in scientific studies and is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of seizure disorders. private children “.
Specifically, he notes that CBD has shown benefits for children with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, both rare conditions. “In these cases, the most common seizure medications don’t work very well.” CBD is part of a treatment package that includes other medications and even brain surgery.
Does CBD Really Help Curb Anxiety?
In short, no. CBD is unlikely to help curb anxiety as advertisements or anecdotal evidence state. “Science isn’t there yet,” says Dr. Streem, adds that while there are scientific studies supporting the use of CBD for the seizure conditions mentioned above, high-quality data on CBD and anxiety do not yet exist.
And if you’re looking forward to these studies for testing, get comfortable. As Dr. points out. Streem, the studies that provide the necessary data are difficult for researchers to conduct for two reasons.
Lack of supervision
The first is government oversight and federal laws that hinder research on cannabinoids, including marijuana. While the number of states that have legalized some form of marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use, has increased dramatically in recent years, THC-containing cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has its hands on trying to regulate it. Many states allow you to sell over-the-counter CBD as a dietary supplement even though technically this is against FDA regulations. The FDA has warned dozens of companies about the practice, but so far little has been done to change the practice. Dr. Streem says, “The FDA must have evidence that there is a safety risk before they can intervene.”
This overlaps with the second problem with CBD, which is a worrying lack of quality control. You can now buy CBD almost anywhere, from CBD specialty stores to your convenience store. But not all CBD is created equal, not even labeling.
A 2017 study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) tested 84 CBD products from 31 different companies and found that 26% had less CBD than indicated on their respective labels, while 43% had more CBD than indicated on their labels.
Equally worrying, Dr. Streem notes that some of the products tested had what he called “significant amounts of THC.” In other words, enough THC to cause a positive in a drug test, even if the label said there was no THC in its oil. And if you ingest CBD with a certain amount of THC, it is also subject to side effects such as delusions and hallucinations. In addition, there is a possibility that these effects may not go away when the effects of the drug go away.
Risks of taking CBD
If you are thinking of trying CBD without in consultation with your healthcare provider, Dr. Streem has a simple answer: Don’t. These are the unknowns, including the unregulated nature of most products and the possible inclusion of enough THC to mark a drug test.
“Trying a CBD product with your doctor’s consultation is less risky,” advises Dr. Streem, “but you should still be aware of how the product makes you feel. If it makes you feel weird, stop using this product immediately.”
“If you could confirm that a product had no THC and had a percentage of CBD close to what the label states, there is little concern that it would do any harm, regardless of the benefits. But that’s not what we’re dealing with right now.” .
The bottom line
While the data show that there are some benefits to using CBD in certain medically approved environments, at the moment, scientific evidence simply does not exist to use CBD to help with anxiety, concludes Dr. Streem. Trying over-the-counter products without stricter regulation carries more risk than reward.