- A new study has found that CBD may help anxiety in teens and young adults.
- After a 12-week treatment period, the subjects reported a 42.6% reduction in anxiety.
- The study was small and experts say more research is needed.
Cannabidiol, or CBD – the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – could be a promising treatment for treatment-resistant anxiety in teens and young adults. New Australian study offers.
After 12 weeks of CBD treatment, study participants aged 12 to 25 reported a 42.6% reduction in anxiety severity and twice as much anxiety compared to prior treatment, found research led by the Australian Youth Mental Health Service Provider and Orygen Research Institute. Study participants took between 200 and 800 mg of cannabidiol per day, depending on the effectiveness observed.
study was published Today in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
The researchers used two scales to assess treatment effectiveness: subjective assessments, which found a 42.6% reduction in anxiety symptoms, and the Hamilton Standardized Assessment of Anxiety, which recorded a 50.7% reduction in anxiety severity.
The study was small, including only 31 participants, but focused significantly on those who did not show progress with other anxiety treatments, including at least five sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, participants continued to receive CBT treatments throughout the 12-week study.
The study was partially funded by Lambert Initiative for Cannabis Therapies at the University of Sydney, a research program funded by charitable donations that specializes in the development of cannabis-based therapies.
This is a hopeful study, but it is still early days Stephen C. Hayes, Ph.D., a clinical psychiatrist and professor at the University of Nevada in Reno, was not involved in the research. “Any open beta is just a start, but you have to start somewhere, and that’s a start.”
He added that “a handful of studies, some of which are controlled, have shown benefits to CBD for anxiety-related issues, so the results fit in with what we know so far about cannabidiol.”
One benefit of CBD is that it appears to have few side effects at low to moderate doses, such as those used in the study.
“Our pilot study found that cannabidiol not only helped reduce anxiety symptoms, but was also well-tolerated—the most common side effects being mild sedation and mild fatigue, but it was around the time the doses were increased and usually went away after two days,” the author of The main study d. Paul Eminger, Ph.D., said in press release.
“We did not observe side effects such as suicidal thoughts, irritability, or sleep problems, which are not uncommon in people taking SSRIs.”
Experts have praised the research for trying to evaluate the use of new therapies to treat mental health in the children and youth setting. However, they had some criticisms regarding aspects of the study.
For example, the study may not have been strict in its definition of “treatment-resistant anxiety.”
“Suggesting that a child has ‘treatment-resistant’ anxiety after developing anxiety symptoms that persist beyond five sessions of CBT is overstated,” said the director of the MSc Medicine, Science and Business program at Sydney Kimmel College of Medicine in Philadelphia. “Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have an important role in the treatment of anxiety in children, none of whom appear to have been exposed to this treatment, and therefore cannot claim that the population suffers from treatment-resistant anxiety.”
Dr. Hayes agreed.
“Especially if exposure was involved, as would be expected with anxiety issues, five sessions is a limited course of psychotherapy and may not have been enough to see a therapeutic effect,” he said. “CBT has no known adverse side effects, so it would have been better to give it a more thorough trial.”
Despite these limitations, these results are a promising direction for further study.
“We know that the endocannabinoid system has a high concentration of receptors in the brain, and it interacts with many other neurotransmitters where anxiety and depression appear,” Worster told Healthline. “Over and over again, in animal models, CBD causes increased relaxation under various stress conditions — so we know there is a pathophysiological reason why CBD is a promising treatment for anxiety.”
However, she urged caution.
“These findings do not mean that CBD is a panacea and that everyone with anxiety will be treated with it,” she said. “This study pushes us toward greater understanding, but there are still many more important questions.”
Amminger, the study leader, seemed to admit this.
“Seeing the treatment’s effect in the treatment-resistant group is encouraging, but it could still be a placebo effect,” he said in a press release. “Following these initial results, he called for a larger, randomized, controlled study with gold standards.”