Mental health is a vastly complicated topic. Mental health and mental illness are highly researched, yet there is still much we do not know about the mechanisms behind mental illness. However, the discovery and investigation of the body’s endocannabinoid system over the last few decades is now beginning to provide us with some more insight. Cannabidiol, or CBD, has garnered increasing interest as a treatment for a range of neuropsychiatric disorders – anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) being some of the most notable. Through research Esther Blessing et al. have found that preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Further, a 2010 study in mice showed that CBD for mental health increased adult neurogenesis (creation of nerve cells; a process thought to be a prominent mechanism underlying many mental health conditions), and that this effect was dependent on the cannabinoid receptor CB1. A major review of endocannabinoid signalling and depression published in 2014, worth quoting at length, states:
“[Endocannabinoid signalling] is particularly important in the CNS [central nervous system] processing of reward, fear, memory extinction and stress. As all of these fundamental processes are dysregulated in major depression, better understanding of ECS holds great potential for improved understanding of the biology of depression.”
Will taking CBD negatively alter my mental state? What if I take too much?
In both preclinical and clinical studies, it has been shown that CBD for mental health possesses a wide range of therapeutic properties, including antipsychotic, analgesic, neuroprotective, anticonvulsant, antiemetic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-arthritic properties. Further, a review of potential side-effects found that CBD is well tolerated across a wide dose range, even up to 1500mg daily, with no psychomotor slowing, negative mood, or vital sign abnormalities.
CBD for Depression
CBD has also been shown to interact with a serotonin receptor outside of the endocannabinoid system, 5-HT1A. A 2016 study in mice showed CBD had anxiety-reducing and anti-depressant effects, with evidence of these 5-HT1A interactions playing a significant role. In general, the 5-HT1A receptor plays a major role in the treatment of depression and other mental health conditions, via neurogenesis in certain areas of the brain, regulation of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and more. This research is extremely promising for those who wish to avoid or discontinue using pharmaceuticals to manage their depression. Taking CBD oil (LINK TO OIL TINCTURES) daily for a sustained period of time can help to promote neurogenesis and balance important neurotransmitters.
CBD for Schizophrenia
CBD for mental health has been shown to enhance signalling of the endocannabinoid anandamide, in both animal and human studies. A 2012 clinical trial showed that in high doses, CBD produced effects in schizophrenic patients nearly identical to a powerful antipsychotic, but with far fewer side effects, and reduced weight gain. This finding is significant as antipsychotic medications often cause severe and unwanted side effects.
CBD For Anxiety and Related Disorders (OCD and PTSD)
While OCD and PTSD are no longer classified as anxiety disorders in the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5, excessive anxiety is central to the symptomatology of both disorders. Anxiety and anxiety-related disorders are associated with a diminished sense of wellbeing, higher rates of unemployment and relationship breakdown – representing an immense social and economic burden on those experiencing anxiety.
Currently available pharmacological treatment for anxiety includes serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressant drugs as well as benzodiazepines. All these medications are associated with limited success and residual unwanted symptoms. With clear drawbacks and limitations on current treatment options for anxiety and related disorders, many are left searching for something better. That’s where CBD comes in.
CBD is known to attenuate anxiety by interacting with several receptors known to regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviour. Although, CBD’s anxiety-relieving action goes beyond producing a calming mental effect. Systemic administration of CBD has been found to reduce acute increases in heart rate and blood pressure induced by anxiety. Additionally, taking CBD is known to block panic responses, making it an invaluable tool to have on hand for those who experience panic or severe symptoms of anxiety. Beyond this, CBD can be used to reduce stress and anxiety throughout your day to day life. A controlled study done by Mateus Bergamaschi et al. found that subjects with social anxiety disorder who received a 600mg dose of CBD before a simulation public speaking test had less anxiety, decreased cognitive impairment, and less discomfort than those receiving placebo treatment.
It is worth noting that when it comes to using CBD to manage your mental health, dosing matters. Initial studies examining CBD’s effect on anxiety showed conflicting results. High (100mg/kg) doses were ineffective, whereas low (10mg/kg) doses were anxiolytic. When further studies tested a wide range of doses, the anxiolytic effects of CBD presented a bell-shaped dose-response curve – lower doses did nothing to treat anxiety, with increasingly anxiolytic effects as the dosage increased, finally dropping off when the dose became too high. Essentially, the anxiolytic effects of CBD are observed at moderate, but not higher doses.
CBD for THC-Induced Anxiety and Panic
Interestingly, those with social anxiety disorder have been found more likely to use cannabis than those with other anxiety disorders to self-medicate their anxiety symptoms. However, the relationship of cannabis – and the cannabinoid THC more specifically – with anxiety is paradoxical. Cannabis is often used in hopes to reduce anxiety, but episodes of intense anxiety and panic are among the most common undesirable effects. Bergamaschi et al. explain that this paradox likely exists because low doses of THC can cause an anxiolytic-like effect, whereas a higher dose can induce anxiety. Further, they state that oral administration of CBD oil and CBD Capsules has been shown to attenuate the anxiety induced by THC with no pharmacokinetic interactions.
If you, a friend, or loved one suffers from mental illness talk to your them or your doctor about CBD for mental health.