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Anxiety and related disorders are on the rise in America, with current statistics showing that 1 in 5 American adults suffer from a form of an anxiety disorder. That’s nearly 3.3 million adults who are struggling to manage their symptoms and maintain a decent quality of life. Anxiety is defined typically as: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, and a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
Many of the symptoms that define anxiety disorder are debilitating for those who live through them, causing not only emotional distress but at times even physical pain and seriously limits a patient’s ability to engage in the world and communities around them. As the numbers rise, pharmaceutical companies have followed suit and ramped up efforts to produce more pill based treatments that are more potent.
Traditional pharmaceuticals like Xanax, Valium, Halcion, Klonopin, Ambien, Ativan. Also known as Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are typically used in combination with therapy to reduce and attempt to prevent the severe symptoms related to anxiety. And while there is some success for some patients, there are a growing number of other patients who have reduced their encounters with these types due to the negative side effects. Some are simple, lack of appetite, weight gain, drowsiness, and slurred speech are a few of the more common, and more minor (although discomforting) side effects that patients report using.
Other side effects are terrifying and even life threatening. Side effects such as: cognitive impairment, sleep-driving, sleepwalking, addiction or withdrawal symptoms, heart problems, amnesia, abnormal behavior, depression, hallucinations, withdrawal reactions,suicide risk or attempts, hostility effect about 3 people out of every 100,000. A drastic change compared to only 0.58 per 100,000 adults in 1996, just ten years ago.
In response to this increase, many patients are turning to their state medical cannabis programs to find safer and more natural treatment options to manage their symptoms and regain control of their lives. The trick is that not every state acknowledges anxiety or anxiety related disorders as a qualifying condition for cannabis based treatment, and as a result a lot of patients are left in a weird and potentially dangerous limbo with limited treatment options. This is where the importance of Cannabidiols (CBDs) makes its entrance as an important topic.
CBD’s are well known as being a part of the cannabis plant, along with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the most well known substance of the cannabis plant. However, THC is only one of about eighty-five compounds found in cannabis plants, including CBDs. The good news is that, for the time being, CBD based products are legal in all 50 states as long as the products meet certain requirements.
The most notable being that any CBD products sold to the general public must contain less than three percent THC, which according to federal agencies is low enough to avoid the psychoaffective impacts of THC (in other words, the feeling of being “high”). Most CBD products that meet these requirements can be found in local health and holistic stores and come in as many methods of consumption as most THC products.
The human brain is a glorious and intricate machine, made up of many different parts working together to send, receive and interpret messages from inside and outside of your body. These messages are “coded” in various chemicals that your brain shoots back and forth via receptors that receive and send these chemical messages. 5-HT1A is a subtype of the serotonin receptor that many treatments focus on for anxiety and depression that can sometimes be treated with medications that target the serotonin system.
SSRIs work by blocking reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, which increases availability of serotonin in the synaptic space. This helps brain cells transmit more serotonin signals, which can reduce anxiety and boost mood in some cases. Similar to SSRIs, CBD may boost signaling through serotonin receptors.
In an animal study, Spanish researchers found that CBD enhances 5-HT1A transmission and can impact or affect serotonin faster than SSRIs. Researchers stated that:: “The fast onset of antidepressant action of CBD and the simultaneous anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect would solve some of the main limitations of current antidepressant therapies.”
What does all of this neuro-techie talk mean? It means that CBD’s act effectively along the same lines and with very similar results to pharmaceutical pills, and provide similar results. The reduction of negative feelings associated with anxiety disorders, and an increase in the chemicals that send positive messages in the brain.
This effect is not the same as addiction, where these chemicals are overly flooded into the brain at insanely higher amounts than what the brain would normally produce organically, CBD’s instead provide a balanced amount of chemicals that bring the mind into what is more similar to a healthy, balanced and more naturally occurring level. For many patients, this is the ideal goal: to be balanced and healthy.
As always, you should always consult with your doctor or psychiatrist who is prescribing any medications for you before quitting cold turkey. A sudden disruption in these chemicals can lead to dangerous side effects including seizures. Keep in mind that various methods of medicating have different impacts, oils and tinctures may take effect more quickly than lotions or transdermal patches for example. It will take some adjustment to find the right method and dose for you, and can be confusing without the psychoaffective impacts of THC, so be patient.
Go slowly, always be ready to ask questions and read lots of labels if you’re considering making a switch to a natural and safer treatment option like CBD’s. But rest assured that the side effects are minimal, most patients report a dry mouth, sleepiness, or a slight stomach ache when first treated with CBD products, and manageable. If you or anyone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, never hesitate to reach out for help with your local medical support team or network, or even anonymously to the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.