Though Capitol Hill and state legislatures have a long way to go before coming to a clear consensus on CBD, the quietly growing world of cannabis research continues to uncover mental health uses for this cannabinoid and some of its molecularly similar brethren.
And since CBD brands in the US are legally forbidden from making medical claims on behalf of their products (like mentioning actual conditions CBD may treat), this cumbersome knowledge gap has been filled with plenty of misinformation about how CBD may treat mental health or other conditions.
But thankfully, there’s nothing illegal about perusing and sharing the research findings examining CBD’s impact on mental health, of which there is now a decent, but still lacking number.
Here’s the general consensus before we get into the specifics: CBD has been reliably proven in several studies to help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, ADHD, and more.
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Stress and anxiety disorders
As explained by an academic article from the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research in Toronto, Canada, CBD has been shown in neuroimaging studies to beneficially alter blood flow in “specific brain structures associated with anxiety, including the amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and cingulate cortex.”
It’s important to refine the word ‘anxiety’ when assessing the effect of CBD on what is really a spectrum, under which varying versions (both generalised and more specific) and severity levels exist.
For example, agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are all differentiated from generalised anxiety disorder, and CBD is still under investigation as a potential therapeutic for these forms of anxiety.
Depression experts are slowly toning down the emphatic preaching of the serotonin gospel we’ve seen for several decades now, but even as we learn about how depression really works – including its mysterious influence on immune cells – serotonin remains a major player.
Hence, the discovery of cannabidiol’s ability to support not only calm-promoting cannabinoid receptors – your body’s built-in system to interact with a cannabinoid it already makes (anandamide) – but serotonin-producing 5-HT1A receptors as well bodes well for depression patients.
As always, the dosage of the CBD administered, whether or not there are other cannabinoids included, the patient’s physiology and medical history, and many other factors can influence results.
The mechanisms involved are still up for debate, but the proven effect of CBD on PTSD symptoms is less controversial, thanks to several clinical studies like this one from Rocky Vista University in Colorado that have shown consistent reductions in PTSD symptoms during and after CBD supplementation.
Some researchers in this vein hypothesize that CBD may help the brain dispose of traumatic memories, and less specifically, others point to the overall calming effect of endocannabinoid system stimulation.
In the case of PTSD and the vast majority of mental health disorders for which potentially addictive or harmful medications are administered, CBD is especially attractive for its non-habit-forming, gentle nature.
Full transparency, the potential of CBD for ADHD is more of a whisper at this point, but we wanted to end with a cautiously optimistic look at the future of cannabinoid therapies.
According to a study from King’s College in London, a cannabinoid-based medication (Sativex) ‘was associated with a nominally significant improvement in hyperactivity/impulsivity and a cognitive measure of inhibition.’
It’s important to note that the researchers explained there were little differences found between placebo and experimental groups in other assessment categories, but as we said, cautious optimism.
You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to potentially benefit from the calming, pain-relieving, and other effects of CBD, as these are well-suited to address the everyday stressors of modern life.
Whichever ‘bucket’ you find yourself in, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before use – the extent to which they can discuss CBD with you varies depending on the state (and the hour, it seems), but it’s always step one.
From there, creating the optimal CBD routine is about deciding on whether you want other cannabinoids with your CBD (full/broad-spectrum) or not (CBD isolate), finding the most effective and convenient form, and tweaking dosage until you feel just the right amount of improvement.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.