Health

CAN YOU REPLACE YOUR COSTLY PSYCH MEDS WITH CBD?

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re reading it on an electronic device. That means you’ve either got a handheld device a few inches from your nose, or you’ve got a computer (laptop, desktop, take your pick) staring back at you with its glowing blue light and insistence on your attention. “So, what”, you ask? So, this: there is a one-hundred percent likelihood that you are living with, at the very least, low level anxiety. At the very worst, you’re experiencing full-blown anxiety attacks or even panic attacks with some regularity. We’re all in a constant state of fight-or-flight due, in no small part, to the incessant demands on our time created by the use of smart phones, tablets and even smart watches means that you’re on call twenty-four hours a day. No matter if you’re neither a doctor nor a plumber, you’re on call. The expectation that has been created in western culture since the advent of the iPhone is that if the phone rings, you’ll pick it up. If you get a text, you’ll respond immediately. That is an enormous amount of pressure, never before experienced by any culture prior to the last fifteen years. Now add the pressure to be popular to the mix. Pre-social media it was an established problem in all cultures; now that you can be “liked”, swiped, given a thumbs-up or, worst of all, not, the anxiety-producing pressure to be popular is at an all-time high. Speaking of “high”, there’s a solution to all that makes us anxious, and it comes from the same plant that provides us with “weed”, “reefer”, “ganja”, “herb” and “pot”. Depending on who you are, the upside or downside of this new solution is that it won’t get you stone; but it will mellow you out. CBD, a derivative of the marijuana plant, may just be the anti-anxiety cure-all of the future.

WHAT IS ANXIETY?

We all know what anxiety feels like, but what is it exactly? The symptoms are awful because they hit you both mentally and physically. You can feel nervous, restless, panicky, or completely doomed. Your body may go into rebellion and torture you with an accelerated heartbeat, sweating, sleeplessness, racing thoughts and hyperventilation. If you’re really lucky, you can have all those symptoms at once. If the above describes how you feel only occasionally, you’re in luck. That’s a normal part of being a human being and is actually an important instinct that keeps us alive. If you’re nervous and your heart is in your throat because you think you’re being followed by someone who is less than friendly, that’s the kind of anxiety you should be happy to have. It will keep you safe by commanding you to cross the street or start running from whoever is pursuing you, much like the rabbit who sees a particularly toothy coyote nearby. If, on the other hand, there is no obvious cause for your anxiety and it overwhelms you with any kind of regularity and interferes with your daily life, you have what is known as an “anxiety disorder.” Anxiety disorders can be non-specific (like generalized anxiety disorder in which there isn’t a specific trigger event) or specific such as with phobias, such as a fear of going outside, fear of inanimate objects, fear of social engagements and fear of being separated from a person or place that is familiar. These are just a few examples of anxiety disorders, which can be as singular as the patient is themselves. There are several ways to alleviate the mental and physical anguish caused by anxiety. Some people benefit from psych pharmaceuticals such as Klonopin or anti-depressants in the SSRI family. Other try to implement lifestyle changes, such as getting regular sleep, working out, avoiding alcohol or recreational drugs and talk therapy. There’s a large contingent of people who are wary of “big pharma” medication and want to opt for what they see as a “natural” remedy. These people turn to the lifestyle changes listed above, aromatherapy, biofeedback and other non-invasive therapies. Now, thanks to the relatively newly acceptable marijuana economy, there’s one more option on the market. Let me introduce you to CBD oil.

WHAT IS CBD?

CBD is a compound present in hemp and cannabis and also goes by its full name, cannabidiol. Hemp is a variety of the marijuana plant and does not have any intoxicating properties, other than being useful to make clothing and paper if you’re into that kind of thing. Marijuana, as most people know, is intoxicating thanks to the compound THC, which is entirely different than CBD and the two can be separated in processing. The point of this botanical lesson is simply that CBD contributes to what is identified as the experience of smoking weed, but won’t get you high. While that might seem like a drawback to some, not so fast! CBD has many purported benefits, including use as an anti-inflammatory (think of what you’d use ibuprofen for), anti-convulsant and immunomodulatory, which means that it can change the body’s immune response to reduce allergies and chronic ailments like psoriasis. The most popular use for CBD at the moment, and possibly the best known, is as a treatment for anxiety.

HOW DOES CBD WORK AND HOW DOES IT REDUCE ANXIETY?

CBD is actually quite fascinating, as it is a naturally occurring property of highly available plants, and requires little to no processing to collect it. It purports to supply the same anxiety-reducing effects as anti-depressants, but at a fraction of the cost and without any need for a prescription. If that sounds too good to be true, the science behind CBD shows why this very well may be the real deal. Anti-depressants from companies like Merck and Lilly, specifically SSRIs) provide anxiety relief by changing the way our bodies produce and use serotonin. Interestingly, so does CBD. Just like SSRIs, CBD promotes neurogenesis, a naturally occurring function of the limbic system that makes your body generate new neurons in the brain. That neurogenesis is one of many ways that the brain can be altered to elevate mood and overcome various psychiatric problems; essentially, it is a rewiring of your brain. SSRIs and CBD are also incredibly similar in their ability to promote both the production of more serotonin in the brain as well as the body’s ability to receive it along the correct neurotransmission paths. The result of the use of CBD can therefore be said to play a major role in managing anxiety as well as depression. All that for a minute fraction of the price of chemically synthesized SSRIs? Sounds pretty good! Should you try it? Why not? There aren’t any side-effects and it doesn’t interfere with any other medication you might be taking. The worst-case scenario is that you won’t feel any effects and you’ll have eaten a few CBD gummy bears or vaped from a CBD cartridge, both are fun so no harm no foul. And it’s worth a mention that smoking Indica strains of marijuana is currently being recommended as a form of anxiety management, so the curative marriage of CBD and anxiety doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

SUMMARY AND WRAP-UP

For the naysayers out there, there is the possibility that CBD is no more than a placebo. In other words, you think it will affect your mood and well-being in a certain way and therefore you feel better whether or not CBD is actually altering your body chemistry. At this point, studies are mostly anecdotal and the use of CBD is too new to track its use over any significant period of time, as required by any serious scientific study. With that said, those who take CBD love it. They say it reduces anxiety, doesn’t render them unable to function in any way, and is both affordable and easy to find. What’s to lose from trying a few drops of CBD oil to chill out the next time you have to stand in front of an audience to deliver a lecture, sing, or whatever it is that you do? Nothing. And you might have a lot to gain.

References:

  1. https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/cbd-is-cannabis-that-wont-get-you-high-so-why-are-so-many-people-using-it/2018/03/29/3836922a-2d2c-11e8- 8ad6-fbc50284fce8_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5f8682e112f3
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/the-power-of-the-placebo-effect
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/why-kids-and-teens-may-face-far-more-anxiety-these-days/?utm_term=.bc28da182a5e
  6. https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/blog-cbd-as-a-treatment-for-the-symptoms-of-anxiety-n954
  7. https://cbd-international.net/cannabidiol-cbd-works-treating-anxiety/

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