Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million American adults each year. One in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug to manage “problems with emotions, nerves, or mental health.” Antidepressants are the most common, closely followed by anti-anxiety medications. Prescription meds like Xanax, Valium, Zoloft, and Prozac have become standard protocol in American society. And while they provide relief for countless people, not everyone’s experience is the same.

Some people simply don’t see an improvement of their symptoms. Others might not be able to tolerate the side effects that many of these medications contain. What’s more is benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin that are commonly prescribed for anxiety can be highly addictive. Prescription benzodiazepine accounted for over 30 percent of prescription overdose deaths in 2013.

Omitting Prescription Meds and Using CBD for Anxiety Instead

It’s clear that people need other options to manage symptoms of anxiety. In recent years, attention has turned to managing anxiety with cannabidiol (CBD). Several studies have shown the positive effects of CBD on anxiety. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t contain any psychoactive properties. In fact, CBD has shown to reduce the anxiety people sometimes experience when smoking cannabis that contains THC.

How Does CBD Help Anxiety?

It’s thought that CBD causes several effects that can help anxiety and mood. One of the most common ways is believed to be the way it affects serotonin levels in the brain. Anxiety and depression are often treated with prescription meds that affect the serotonin system. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft and Prozac are often prescribed to increase the availability of serotonin, which in turn helps transmit more serotonin signals.

Like SSRIs, CBD has shown to increase the signals of serotonin receptors. The exact biology of how increased signaling of serotonin receptors affects anxiety and mood isn’t fully understood but, numerous studies have shown the propensity CBD has to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

In high concentration levels, CBD has shown to activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. 5-HT1A is activated by serotonin. When CBD is used, an anti-anxiety effect has shown to follow.

Studies Show CBD Helps Anxiety Symptoms

A preliminary study conducted in 2011 found that CBD helped people suffering from public speaking anxiety. It found a single dose of CBD showed a “promising indication” for a “rapid onset of therapeutic effect” for people suffering from the anxiety associated with public speaking.

Another small study showed CBD to be beneficial to people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This is the most common anxiety disorder known and affects 6.8 million Americans (3.1 percent of the population). After consuming CBD, patients in the small study described a significant decrease in their anxiety symptoms.

While there have been several studies on CBD for anxiety, more research is needed to assess the long-term effects.  Almost half of the people who take CBD however, stop taking traditional medication. According to the largest survey on CBD to date, the most common reasons people take CBD is to treat insomnia, anxiety, depression, and joint pain. Of those who participated in the survey, 80 percent found CBD products to be “very or extremely effective.”

In a country dominated by prescription medication, CBD is becoming a welcomed alternative. The tremendous value found in CBD for anxiety (and countless other conditions) is only increasing as more people discover the benefits it contains.

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