With more and more people reporting the use of CBD to ease stress and anxiety in these uncertain times, is the research there to back it up?
With a global pandemic raging, and many of us cut off from our friends and loved ones, it is no surprise that levels of anxiety and stress are at a high right now.
With many of our traditional stress-relieving activities – going to the gym, seeing a friend, travelling – out of bounds, and concern mounting about a rise in alcohol use, people are increasingly looking for alternative ways to relax.
A number of recent developments have once again highlighted the value of CBD in treating anxiety – so much so that a Canadian firm is developing a prescription drug based on the compound.
EmpowerPharm Inc is currently developing a unique prescription drug containing synthetic CBD as the active pharmaceutical ingredient to treat anxiety.
Pending the results of clinical research, it is thought the drug may help the thousands of Canadians who suffer from anxiety, as the firm has identified a growing need for innovative therapies as alternative treatments to avoid the addictive prescription products currently prescribed.
Meanwhile, CBD is also growing in popularity among those using it on a more recreational basis; almost half of UK users have increased their consumption since the pandemic.
A recent poll has found that more than a third (33 per cent) of Britons have tried CBD products, while 42 per cent have increased their usage since the outbreak of Covid-19, with anxiety the most common reason for using them.
While CBD has long had a reputation for promoting relaxation, research is still ongoing.
A landmark study in the US – billed as the first of its kind – was launched in October last year to investigate CBD’s use as a formal anxiety treatment.
The Cannabinoid Anxiety Relief Education Study is targeting millions of CBD and cannabis users across the US to assess the potential role of cannabinoids in reducing anxiety and other co-morbid conditions, such as insomnia and depression.
Such large-scale research is especially relevant given high Covid-19-caused anxiety levels, with many state and local governments deeming cannabis businesses “essential” and thus able to remain open during restrictions.
However, there are concerns that, while CBD can certainly help to relieve anxiety in the short-term, it is nothing more than a ‘sticking plaster’ solution.
Studies conducted by a team at Washington State University, led by phycology professor Dr Carrie Cuttler, analysed data from hundreds of people who recorded their symptoms before and after cannabis consumption.
Findings showed that in people who self-reported as having PTSD, cannabis reduced the severity of intrusive thoughts by about 62 per cent; for irritability it was 67 per cent and anxiety by 57 per cent.
However, researchers also found that there is no indication that cannabis reduced symptoms in the long-term.
Dr Cuttler cautioned: “We see a general theme that immediately after using cannabis most of the symptoms of these conditions are reduced by just over 50 percent.
“The bottom line is that it can work as an effective mask of the symptoms temporarily but it’s not benefiting the individuals in the long term.”
Such research points to the fact that, whole CBD may not be a solution for long-term anxiety, it is a useful took for treating shorter spells of stress – such as those caused by the pandemic.
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