Chances are that over the past few years you have come across many discussions and anecdotes about cannabidiol, also known as CBD. The availability and sales of CBD have exploded in the United States since its federal legalization and are now legal in most states.
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You can find CBD on the shelves of many stores, with various brands promoting benefits ranging from pain relief to sleep aid. It also comes in many forms such as CBD gummies, CBD oils, CBD lotions, and even CBD-infused sodas. And one of the big claims from proponents of CBD is its ability to relieve anxiety, a feeling many of us have experienced over the past few years thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But not all CBD is created equal, and the truth about the benefits is rather complicated. To dig deeper into whether CBD actually curbs anxiety and what else you need to know before trying it, we spoke to a psychiatrist David Streem, MD.
What is CBD?
“CBD is one of the chemicals found in plants containing cannabis,” says Dr. Streem. CBD comes mainly from hemp and, notably, contains very small traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient that causes the “high” of marijuana. In fact, the US government restricts hemp-derived products to have a THC content more than 0.3%.
When it comes to proven health benefits, there is evidence that CBD could serve as a treatment for chronic pain, but the data are still mixed. More fundamentally, however, says Dr. Streem, “CBD has particular health benefits that have been demonstrated in scientific studies and it is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of seizure disorders. particular in children.
Specifically, he notes that CBD has proven benefits for children experiencing Lennox Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, two rare diseases. “In these cases, the most common anti-epileptic drugs don’t work very well.” CBD is part of a treatment package that includes other drugs and even brain surgery.
Does CBD Really Help Reduce Anxiety?
In short, no. CBD probably does not help reduce anxiety as claimed in advertisements or anecdotal evidence. “The science is not there yet,” says Dr. Streem, adding that while there are scientific studies supporting the use of CBD for the previously mentioned crisis conditions, there is no data of this yet. quality for CBD and anxiety.
And if you’re waiting for these studies to produce evidence, make yourself comfortable. As Dr. Streem points out, studies that provide the necessary data are difficult for researchers to conduct for two reasons.
A lack of supervision
The first is government oversight and federal laws that make it difficult to research cannabinoids, including marijuana. While the number of states that have legalized some form of marijuana — whether medical or recreational — has increased dramatically in recent years, cannabis containing THC remains illegal at the federal level.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has its hands full trying to regulate it. Many states allow CBD to be sold over-the-counter as a dietary supplement, although this is, technically, against FDA regulations. The FDA has warned tens companies about this practice but, so far, little has been done to change these practices. Dr. Streem says, “The FDA needs to have proof that there is a safety risk before it can intervene.
This overlaps with the second problem with CBD, which is a troubling lack of quality control. You can buy CBD just about anywhere now, from specialty CBD shops to your corner convenience store. But not all CBD is created equal, and neither is the labeling.
A study 2017 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) tested 84 CBD products from 31 different companies and found that 26% had less CBD than stated on their respective labels, while 43% had more CBD than stated on their labels.
Equally troubling, Dr Streem points out that a number of the products tested contained what he calls “relevant amounts of THC”. In other words, enough THC to trigger a positive drug test result even though the label said there was no THC in their oil. And if you ingest CBD with a certain amount of THC, you are also prone to side effects, including delusions and hallucinations. Also, there is a chance that these effects will not go away when the effects of the drug wear off.
Risks of taking CBD
If you are considering trying CBD without after consulting your health care provider, Dr. Streem has a simple answer: don’t. It’s about the unknowns, including the unregulated nature of most products and the possible inclusion of enough THC to flag a drug test.
“Trying a CBD product with consultation from your doctor is less risky,” advises Dr. Streem, “but you should always be aware of how the product makes you feel. If it makes you feel weird, stop using it immediately. product.
He continues, “If you could confirm that a product contained no THC and had a CBD percentage close to what the label claims, there is little fear that it will do any harm, regardless of the benefits. . But that’s not what we’re dealing with right now. »
The bottom line
Although data shows there are some benefits to using CBD in certain medically approved settings, at this time the scientific evidence is simply not there for using CBD to help with anxiety, concludes the Dr Stream. Trying over-the-counter products without stricter regulations carries more risks than rewards.