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“It made me feel human again” – Medical cannabis and anxiety

Sylv reveals how medical cannabis is helping her manage severe anxiety brought on by the pandemic.

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person with anxiety
Sylv's anxiety worsened during the coronavirus pandemic

Struggling with severe anxiety brought on by the pandemic, Sylv has spent the last year taking anti-depressants, which caused acute side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Now she is taking medical cannabis, which she says is “making her feel human” again.

“My anxiety wasn’t horrific until the start of the pandemic,” says, Sylv, 41.

Sylv has suffered from anxiety for a number of years and has learned how to manage the condition and keep her mental health under control.

But in March last year, as the country was plunged into lockdown, she was hit with a wave of anxiety that she hadn’t experienced before.

She was taking the beta-blocker, propranolol, at the time. It was “perfect” for managing her anxiety, but would often trigger her asthma, a common side effect of the drug.

As Sylv sat at home “wheezing” from her asthma, she started to panic, believing she had caught Covid-19.

From there, she says, her mental health began to spiral out of control. She soon found that things as simple as going shopping, would leave her crippled with anxiety.

“The fear I had about leaving the house and going out was what affected me the most,” Sylv says.

“It became so strong that I felt uncomfortable touching things and I would get so anxious that it would make me nauseous.

“At one point I was in the queue at a shop, and somebody was standing too close behind me. I came home and I burst into tears.”

Sylv tried multiple medications before being prescribed Venlafaxine, a strong anti-depressant that came with an array of “awful” side effects.

After being signed off from work for six months, Sylv rarely left the house for fear of triggering her anxiety and, as a result of her medication, started experiencing nausea, headaches and insomnia. She would regularly be awake for 36 hours at a time.

Sylv worked as an admin assistant for a care agency. Due to the nature of the job, it was impossible for her to work from home.

In November, she says she felt ready to try to return to work again.

“It was very hard having to go to work in those circumstances. I did try and get a bus in one time, but it was horrible,” she says.

Caring for the elderly on a daily basis meant talk of the pandemic was all around her, which only fed into her anxiety.

“We had some clients and staff members that had Covid, so when I was at work it was constantly being mentioned. It was just continuous, 24/7, it was all that was talked about,” she says.

Sylv managed to work for two months until it became too much. The Venlafaxine was “dulling” her brain to the extent that she wasn’t able to focus on her work and she was signed off sick again in January.

Shortly after going on sick leave, Sylv’s doctor increased her dose of venlafaxine to 225 mg. This time, she noticed problems with her vision and a loss of balance caused her to fall over.

And it wasn’t just her physical health that was affected. While taking Venlafaxine, Sylv says she lost the “zeal” to do things she loved. An avid cook before lockdown, Sylv says she didn’t cook a meal from scratch for almost a year.

In February, her friend suggested she give medical cannabis a try.

“I didn’t really believe it to start off with, but I looked into it and decided to go for it,” she says.

Sylv chose The Medical Cannabis Clinics for her prescription and was accepted onto the Project Twenty21 scheme that offers to subsidise costs for eligible patients.

Her first prescription came through the door in March.

“It was like being six-years-old on Christmas Day,” she says.

Sylv was prescribed with two strains: 30gm of CMC, a balanced CBD-THC sativa and 30mg of MVA, a THC-dominant indica.

The two types of cannabis together helped “immensely” with her anxiety and also relieved the chronic back pain that she had been suffering from for a number of years. She felt the benefits immediately.

“Literally from the first puff, I could tell that the quality was good and it was doing what it was supposed to. It’s like your mum coming up and putting a blanket around you, that feeling of being comforted,” she says.

With the help of medical cannabis, Sylv is now coming off venlafaxine, but with that, has come extreme withdrawal symptoms.

First, she started to experience “brain zaps”, also known as paraesthesia.

“It affects the nerve endings in your head,” Sylv explains.

“You suddenly feel something like an electric shock going through your head.”

Her nausea also reached a new peak, to the extent where she had to stop driving.

“I drove to my corner shop, which is a two-minute drive away. On the way back, I was trying to stop myself from vomiting in the car,” Sylv says.

Thankfully, Sylv is close to coming off venlafaxine completely, replacing the anti-depressant with her new prescription.

“Medical cannabis, for me, has been life-changing,” she says.

“My dad says I sound so much brighter. I feel joy. It enables me to laugh and feel relaxed and I find that I enjoy things more now.”

Sylv and her friend have now started a help group on Telegram, an instant messaging platform that allows users to create an anonymous account.

The pair are helping others gain access to a medical cannabis prescription, providing peer-to-peer support and explaining the process to people who might otherwise be unaware.

Medical cannabis has improved my wellbeing, my motivation, my self-confidence. It has made me want to share what I have with others and help people because I feel very privilege,” says Sylv.

“We’re trying to reach people who are self-medicating, who maybe need a hand and give people the information they need so that they can check for themselves and see if they qualify for it.

“We’re trying to give back a little bit and inform people that there is such a thing as medical cannabis.”

Sadly, as a result of her struggles with anxiety over the last year, Sylv was made medically redundant from her job in early April and her husband was made redundant less than a week later.

Now facing a difficult financial situation, Sylv is uncertain about what the future holds for her prescription, which costs her £300 per month.

Even with the help of Project Twenty21, her medication, which makes her “feel like a human being again”, is at risk.

“If I have to stop [my prescription] because I can’t afford it, it will feel like a leap backwards; from almost being back to my normal self to somebody that might not even be able to go out of the house,” Sylv adds.

“It’s going to feel like a limb has been cut off; it’s like a lifeline.”

Mental health

Clinical trial will assess if CBD can be used to treat PTSD

A new clinical trial could be a breakthrough moment for the treatment of PTSD

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PTSD is particularly common among those who have served in the armed forces

US biotech firm Ananda Scientific has launched clinical trials of a cannabis-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The company has teamed up with New York University Grossman School of Medicine to carry out the eight-week study.

The Phase II double-blind, randomised trial will involve 120 patients in a large scale placebo-controlled experiment which could be a breakthrough moment for the drug.

If successful, the trial will be an important step on the journey to winning regulatory approval Ananda’s Nantheia treatment, a drug incorporating CBD into a liquid application.

PTSD is a common mental health disorder which occurs in people following a traumatic experience and is a particular problem among people who have served in the armed forces.

A 2014 study found as many as 12.9 percent of US soldiers who served in Iraq displayed some symptoms of PTSD.

Recent months have seen warnings health workers on the front line during the Covid-19 crisis could also be experiencing PTSD.

An increasing number of health workers have displayed PTSD symptoms during the pandemic.

A study in the British Medical Journal compiled earlier this year found 39.5 percent of staff on critical care wards ‘met the threshold for probable clinical significance’ when surveyed for PTSD symptoms.

The study will also evaluate its impact on patients with neurocognitive impairments resulting from a traumatic brain injury.

Sohail R. Zaidi, Ananda’s president, said: “This is an important milestone for Ananda’s clinical development program, and we look forward to continuing to work with the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

“We are impressed by the scientific rigour and professionalism of the NYU team in getting a cutting-edge program in place to test the efficacy of our very promising drug.

“The initiation of patient enrolment in this study reinforces our commitment to our goal of improving health and wellness empowered by cannabinoid science.

“This is also an important step in our efforts to provide patients with PTSD with potentially improved therapeutic options.”

This trial is being led by Esther Blessing, assistant professor of psychiatry and Charles R. Marmar, chair of psychiatry.

Dr Marmar leads NYU’s PTSD research programme and is a leading expert in clinical trials for innovative treatments for PTSD and related conditions.

He said: “We are excited to get this important trial underway. Our collaboration with Ananda Scientific allows us to progress in the development of evidence-based CBD products for this debilitating condition.”

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Mental health

Friends and CBD founders donate profits to mental health charity

10 percent of the brand’s profits will go to the Mental Health Foundation this month

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Catherine Meardon (left) and Laura Walton co-founded Moi+Me

Two friends who co-founded a CBD brand after experiencing anxiety, are donating a percentage of the company’s profits to a mental health charity this month.

Best friends and CBD co-founders, Laura Walton and Catherine Meardon know the importance of looking after your mental health.

Both of them have experienced anxiety either personally, or through a loved one. 

This June, the pair who co-founded CBD brand Moi+Me, are donating 10 percent of their profits to the Mental Health Foundation to help raise awareness. 

The charity provides support for those experiencing mental health issues, as well as campaigning to raise awareness and reduce stigma.

The friends and former colleagues founded Moi+Me after Laura’s struggles with anxiety after losing her mum.

She says discovering CBD, along with other tools and being able to be open about her experience helped her find her “way out”.

As a friend, Catherine has found it difficult to know what to say and together they wanted to build a brand that could provide tools and support, as well as taking the confusion out of CBD.

“Both of us have been touched personally by anxiety, either through our own suffering or that of those we love,” said Laura.

“I used CBD along with other tools during her mental health journey and found them to be a great support, but I didn’t want to only create a brand or product, we want to help support as much as we can by encouraging people to take extra care of themselves and have self-love.” 

She added: “It is our mission to raise further awareness of mental health, we are fully aware it can still be hard to be open about mental health in fear of being judged so by supporting this charity who in turn helps others also suffering feels a perfect fit for our brand.”

The concept for Moi + Me came from the idea that our busy lifestyles leave us feeling pulled in different directions with little time for reflection and self-care.

The range includes CBD balm, temple roller, peppermint oil mist and massage candle to encourage customers to take time for themselves.

Catherine added: “We both understand the importance of getting your life balance right. If you don’t allow time in your life for reflection and relaxation, things can very quickly feel on top of you. 

“Our busy lifestyles can leave us feeling like you have one soul and two minds. One ‘Moi’ side of us is thriving externally while the other ‘Me’ side feels tired, worn out and has too much on.  

“We’ve designed our high-quality, pure CBD product range to help bring moments of calm into your daily routine through a combination of stimulating flavours and scents.”

 

Visit www.moiandme.com

Access mental health information and support via the Mental Health Foundation 

 

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Mental health

How should I take CBD for anxiety?

Increasingly people are finding relief from anxiety with CBD.

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Studies suggest that CBD can have a positive impact on anxiety and stress

Living through a pandemic has made us all, understandably, a lot more anxious and increasingly people are finding relief in CBD.

Whether we’re worried about finances and or concerned for our health, what’s being termed Covid-anxiety has hit the population in a major way, with dedicated anxiety helplines even extending their hours of operation to accommodate demand.

Now, many people are turning to CBD to help them manage their anxiety – but is it effective? And, if so, how much should we be taking?

 

Is it effective?

It would appear so, yes. 

A recent two-year review of the research so far has shown that CBD can have a significant positive impact on anxiety and stress.

The report, which examined worldwide clinical papers from 2019 and 2020, was produced by Florida-based Nutrition Formulators and published in the peer-reviewed Innovare Journal of Medical Science. 

When focused specifically on anxiety, the studies showed that CBD reduced anticipator anxiety, such as speaking in public, by affecting the part of the brain that processes emotional information.

How does it work?

According to the authors of one 2015 review, CBD works by interacting with the cannabinoid type 1 receptor, the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and other receptors in the brain that regulate fear and anxiety-induced behaviours.

In a more recent 2020 study, researchers evaluated CBD’s effects on 397 adults with a variety of ailments.

Those who received CBD treatment for anxiety or depression reportedly experienced improvements in their ability to perform daily functions and reduce pain and anxiety or depression symptoms.

How should I take it – and much should I take?

There are a variety of CBD products on the market, so which you choose will depend largely on when and why you’re feeling anxious.

Methods include the oral route, through tinctures, oils and gummies, or more topical remedies, such as balms and creams.

For anxiety, you will probably be more suited to an oral administration method, as this will enter the bloodstream, but here too there is a world of difference between products.

The effects of orally administered CBD, such as oils, edibles, or capsules, begin working within 30 minutes to 2 hours, as they have to work their way through the digestive system. 

Products such as gummies are pleasant-tasting and discreet, meaning you can use them to relieve anxiety throughout the day. Alternatively, you could take a drop of oil in the morning with some food.

Smoking or vaping CBD oil  on the other hand, results in more immediate effects, which may help people during especially stressful events, such as giving a speech.

In terms of dosage, as with using CBD for any issue or ailment, the key is to start low and go slow.

There is a misconception that you will only get the desired effect using a higher dose, but this is far from the truth; micro-dosing can be just as effective. 

Studies have shown that between 300mg and 600mg a day is affective for controlling the symptoms of anxiety, but this is dependent on a number of factors, such as the type of CBD used and the consumer’s own health, weight and metabolism.

 

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