How can CBD relieve anxiety disorders? How to properly consume CBD to avoid panic attacks and anxiety attacks? Many people find that calming CBD products can help relieve panic attacks. But not everybody has the same experience. So, can CBD cause panic attacks? Have you seen contradicting messages about cannabis use and anxiety? Learn whether cannabis causes or lowers anxiety. Dr James Connell explains. Read Now.
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks: does CBD work?
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks occur because of stress and anxiety. According to WHO (World Health Organization) figures, anxiety disorders affect nearly 260 million people worldwide. Anxiety disorders manifest themselves as a feeling of insecurity that, over time, can become permanent. On a daily basis, people with anxiety suffer from panic attacks or anxiety attacks, intense episodes where they feel vulnerable and unsafe, gripped by a sudden and irrational fear.
For the past few years, CBD (cannabidiol) has been well known for reducing anxiety and inhibiting fear. Many people have embraced CBD to reduce their stress and anxiety levels on a daily basis, as it is a natural solution and far more effective than most drug treatments.
So, if you too are looking for a natural alternative to end your panic attacks, you might be interested in the soothing properties of medical cannabis. From the very first time you take it, it can help you release tension, lighten your mind, and banish anxiety from your thoughts. How do anxiety disorders manifest themselves? How can CBD reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and how to consume it properly to enjoy its benefits quickly? All the information about CBD and anxiety can be found below.
What is anxiety?
Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, manifest as a sudden, intense feeling of fear. In the body, the fear can develop in milliseconds. That’s enough time to alarm your brain and trigger an attack. When it comes to anxiety, there are 3 types of disorders to differentiate:
- Panic Attacks: From an outside perspective, a panic attack may look very impressive, but in reality, it is not dangerous to your health. People who suffer from panic attacks may start crying, shaking, breathing harder, and feel completely frightened. Sometimes a trigger is the cause of the attack: an argument, a noisy place, an increase in stress, etc. But other times, they can happen for no apparent reason: at work, in class, or even at the movies. Shortness of breath, palpitations, sweating, dizziness. These are the main symptoms of an anxiety attack. If you see someone starting an attack, you need to reassure and comfort them, without smothering them.
- Phobias: Anxiety disorders can also result in phobias. For example, a claustrophobic person is highly likely to have an anxiety attack if you lock him or her up for hours in an enclosed space, whether it’s a concert hall or a plane. Some people also suffer from social phobia and have great difficulty fitting in with groups. When fear and anxiety take over, they may experience nausea, headaches, and stomach aches.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Generalized anxiety is when the feeling of anxiety becomes constant. Every day, people suffering from this generalized disorder are afraid of everything and are very nervous. This daily anxiety results in headaches, muscle tension, sleep disturbances and lack of concentration.
Why take CBD to combat anxiety?
To begin with, it is essential to remember that CBD is one of the many cannabinoids in hemp that, unlike THC, does not provide any psychoactive effects. Thus, people suffering from anxiety can consume CBD without the risk of aggravating their case. Cannabis with THC could actually promote anxiety in some consumers.
For scientific researchers, CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system, specifically with the 5-HT1A, GPR55, CB1 and CB2 receptors. Thus, CBD helps regulate the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, meaning it promotes pleasure and good mood, while alleviating stress and anxiety.
Thanks to CBD, many people suffering from anxiety have been able to regain a sense of calm and relaxation on a daily basis. Used wisely, CBD allows to evacuate irrational fears and to limit the appearance of anxiety attacks.
What do scientists think about CBD for treating anxiety?
In 2011, a clinical study conducted at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil highlighted the positive effect of CBD on the limbic and paralimbic parts of the brain. The researchers tested CBD on several participants suffering from anxiety. One group received CBD, while the other received a placebo. Only the participants who received CBD noticed a significant improvement and thus, an anxiety-reducing effect.
In 2015 in New York, another scientific study was conducted to prove the effectiveness of CBD on all types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks. Their conclusion is simple: the positive effects of CBD are quick, and they are long lasting.
More recently, in 2016, Spanish researchers conducted some animal experiments to show that CBD could improve the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Once again, the results reveal the huge potential of therapeutic cannabis to relieve anxiety disorders.
How to take CBD to avoid panic attacks?
Unlike traditional drug treatments, CBD does not need to be taken daily to be effective. In fact, people suffering from panic attacks can be content to take CBD only when the need arises. For those who suffer from generalized anxiety, daily or at least more frequent use may be helpful. Depending on your type of anxiety and the intensity of your attacks, it is up to you to know when you need it. You can take it every day, or once a month. It doesn’t matter, as long as the CBD is doing you good.
At what dosage?
As for the dosage, it is up to you to find the one that suits you best, depending on how you feel and the intensity of your anxiety. Whatever happens, always start with the lowest dose, and if necessary, you can increase it little by little. Starting with a small amount and a low level of CBD is the best way to obtain optimal soothing effects.
In what form?
Generally, anxious people need a quick action to relieve their crises, which is why they prefer CBD oil. It allows a precise and fast dosage, thanks to the pipette which allows to pour a few drops under the tongue. The relaxing effects appear in a few minutes and can last several hours.
Otherwise, you can also spray flowers or CBD resin if you prefer inhalation. And finally, you can make herbal teas with CBD. The most important thing is to find a form of CBD that is not a strain for you.
Can CBD cause anxiety?
Some people think that CBD can cause anxiety, as they are referring to cannabis in general. It is true that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive molecule that can cause palpitations and anxiety. But rest assured, CBD-based products are completely THC-free, as they meet European standards.
Can CBD cure anxiety disorders?
No, CBD does not cure any disease. On the other hand, it relieves, it helps, and it accompanies the patients towards a soft and natural healing process. CBD is not a medicine, but it can significantly improve your daily life by reducing many symptoms of anxiety.
Can CBD Cause Panic Attacks?
We think of CBD as calming, soothing, and relaxing – and as product descriptions show, so do brands. But not everybody has the same tranquil experience with CBD products. Can CBD cause panic attacks? It’s not such a crazy question.
But it’s not necessarily common, either. In this post, we will explore if CBD can cause panic attacks and why you may have one after using tincture oils, concentrates, or other products. We will also look at how to avoid panic attacks.
Let’s start with a swift response to the original question before analyzing the specifics of CBD products and panic attacks.
The Quick Answer
Some people experience panic attacks after using CBD products, but this seems rare. Full-spectrum CBD carries increased risk due to the presence of THC.
Anxiety and panic attacks are almost certainly caused by another substance in the product, not the CBD. This could be another cannabinoid, a non-hemp plant extract, or even an impurity. No research suggests that pure CBD causes anxiety.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most concentrated non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant. The naturally-occurring cannabinoid does not produce psychoactive effects but modulates the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to enhance wellbeing.
Cannabis scientists began gradually learning about CBD during the 20th century, but the cannabinoid has seen an explosion of interest since the early 2010s. Millions now use federally legal hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC.
Sought-after CBD products include tincture oils, e-liquids, vape cartridges, capsules, edibles, concentrates, topicals, and flower. But there are almost endless possibilities, as one look at the flourishing U.S. hemp market will show you.
Types of hemp-derived CBD extract
To understand the risk of anxiety and panic attacks after taking CBD, we need to run through the different types of hemp extract used in CBD products.
CBD-isolate: If you only care for CBD, products with CBD-isolate extract are your best bet. Not only are they cheaper, but they will also spare you any drug test nightmares and reduce the likelihood of side effects.
The hemp extract itself doesn’t contain any other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids, although some brands choose to add compounds separately. Check the ingredients list of a CBD-isolate product before purchasing.
Full-spectrum CBD: This is typically the best hemp extract to improve your wellbeing. Full-spectrum CBD promotes the entourage effect, a synergy that makes cannabinoids more potent than if consumed separately.
However, full-spectrum means you get every hemp component and therefore a tiny amount of THC. Per federal law, this must be less than 0.3%, but even that much has the potential to cause side effects and positive drug tests.
Broad-spectrum CBD: Products made with broad-spectrum hemp strike the perfect balance for many. They are THC-free, but you don’t lose out on other cannabinoids and terpenes that make CBD more beneficial than when taken in isolation.
If full-spectrum CBD is causing side effects or you are nervous about surprise drug tests, use broad-spectrum CBD.
Can Too Much CBD Cause Panic Attacks?
Anxiety and panic attacks are rare side effects but not unheard of, with some products more likely to give you these issues than others. And if you are anxiety-prone, other CBD-induced side effects could make you a little edgy.
However, no scientific evidence suggests pure CBD causes anxiety and panic attacks. Therefore, if you experience these after using a product, it’s more likely due to another substance present, whether that is THC or another extract.
Users who report panic attacks after “taking CBD” have often consumed a full-spectrum CBD product. But what makes this type of hemp extract problematic?
The problem with full-spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD is a fantastic hemp extract for amplified therapeutic benefits and the entourage effect, but it’s not without its downsides – specifically, the inclusion of THC.
The 2018 Farm Bill caps delta-9-THC levels in hemp products at 0.3%, but that can still be a pesky amount. Any concentration of THC can trigger side effects if you have extra sensitive cannabinoid receptors.
Unfortunately, anxiety and paranoia are among the most common and notorious THC side effects. The brain-twisting psychoactive properties can cause hallucinations, mess with your senses, and even screw with your perception of time.
So, while full-spectrum CBD is often touted as the gold standard extract in hemp-based CBD products, this is a subjective statement. If you have an unhappy relationship with marijuana, avoid full-spectrum CBD as a precaution.
Moreover, according to researchers, untested CBD products often exceed the legal THC limit. Not only are such products Schedule I drugs, but they generate effects more akin to traditional marijuana than CBD.
Can CBD Cause Panic Attacks? (Reddit Opinions)
We have looked at the science, but what about first-hand experiences with CBD and panic attacks? I stumbled across some intriguing anecdotes when searching Reddit.
On the r/CBD subreddit, u/Encendi shared a story about nearly having a panic attack after taking full-spectrum CBD tincture oil. Others chimed in, suggesting the THC in the oil could be the culprit or that the perceived panic attack was psychosomatic.
On the same subreddit, u/Mischievist reported a massive panic attack after consuming 35mg of CBD gummies. Fellow CBD users advised checking the type of extract before purchasing and starting with a low dose when trying a new product.
Finally, we have u/apex_f7’s story, also from the r/CBD subreddit. They had previously taken tincture oils successfully but suffered a panic attack after smoking CBD flower lasting for two hours. Reddit users hinted at the same offender: the THC.
Of course, your average Redditor isn’t an expert, but first-hand stories of bad CBD experiences are invaluable. We can study them together and search for patterns – in this case, it’s full-spectrum hemp that comes up with regularity.
CBD Products and Panic Attacks
Thus far, we have assessed CBD and panic attacks from a general perspective. Let’s drill down on the risks associated with various CBD products.
Can CBD oil cause panic attacks?
It depends. CBD-isolate and broad-spectrum CBD pose hardly any danger, with panic attacks only coming due to weird reactions and impure, untested tinctures.
However, full-spectrum CBD oil could cause such complications. I must stress that panic attacks and anxiety from taking any form of CBD remain rare. But if it’s going to happen with tinctures, it will be with this type of product.
Can smoking CBD cause panic attacks?
Yes, smoking CBD flower is more likely to cause panic attacks than any other CBD product type by nature of the cannabinoid composition. Raw hemp flower is inevitably full-spectrum – you cannot grow CBD-isolate or broad-spectrum buds!
Therefore, CBD nugs will undoubtedly have some THC, although hopefully less than 0.3%. However, many CBD flower products also have substantial concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).
THCA is a precursor of THC and a regular in raw hemp and cannabis. When smoked, non-intoxicating THCA decarboxylates into psychoactive THC. Combined with the already-active THC, this could be enough to set off a panic attack.
Don’t smoke CBD joints if you have anxiety or suffer from cannabis-induced anxiety. I know you may want to enjoy an authentic cannabis experience, but it’s not worth it if your authentic experience means a heightened risk of panic attacks.
Can CBD dabs cause panic attacks?
You might think that highly-potent CBD concentrates – such as shatter, crystals, and wax – are prime candidates for panic attacks. But these products are relatively safe, with the strongest dabs often THC-free to allow for even greater CBD concentration.
That said, full-spectrum wax and similar products may cause issues. Dosing with concentrates is tricky, and it’s easy to ingest or inhale much more than planned. And given the sky-high concentration, you could unwittingly consume a chunk of THC.
How to Avoid Panic Attacks with CBD
Even if you are prone to panic attacks, there is no reason why your CBD experience should end up in disarray. With informed purchases and sensible usage, you can stay anxiety and panic attack-free when dosing with CBD products.
Use THC-free CBD products
Neutralize the risk of side effects by using third-party tested, THC-free CBD products. Thankfully, that only rules out full-spectrum CBD products.
You are good to go with CBD-isolate and broad-spectrum CBD. Even products that mix CBD with CBG or CBN are okay, provided there’s no THC lurking!
Whatever you buy, ensure it comes with a corresponding third-party certificate of analysis (COA). Untested products may have traces – or even hefty quantities – of THC, and you would have no way of knowing until trying.
Furthermore, unapproved CBD products may also contain dangerous impurities or even less CBD than stated. Third-party testing keeps you safe and stops scammers in their tracks.
Manage your dosage
The higher your dosage, the more likely side effects are, especially with full-spectrum CBD. Therefore, managing your intake, particularly when using a new product, is a measure that limits the risk of anxiety attacks.
Double-check what hemp extract is in your product, the serving size, and whether any ingredients could impact the effects (i.e., MCT oil). Use this information and consume accordingly, always taking a lower dosage if unsure.
Let me put your mind at rest: pure and natural CBD comes with no overdose or dependency risk. A 2011 study published in Current Drug Safety found that CBD doesn’t become toxic until you ingest nearly 20,000mg of CBD oil per day.
So, chill out! Sure, drowsiness, diarrhea, and nausea can occur with regular dosages, but these will all pass as the CBD wears off. And any anxiety and paranoia triggered by full-spectrum CBD will subside within a few hours of consumption.
Remember that some CBD products kick in at different rates. If you are familiar with gummies, fast-acting vape cartridges and joints could take you by surprise. Make a mental note of this beforehand if trying a new product.
Can CBD Cause Panic Attacks to Go Away?
If you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and know about CBD, you will have likely heard it can help relieve these issues. Good news: the right product used correctly can do just that!
But don’t take my word for it when you can take it from scientists who have spent months, if not years, researching this specific topic!
The authors of this 2015 study in Neurotherapeutics found that CBD has “considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.”
An earlier paper published in Neuropsychopharmacology argued that CBD may combat social anxiety symptoms. Notably, the study involved a whopping 600mg CBD-isolate powder, an indication that CBD is well-tolerated in high, purified doses.
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Does Cannabis Cause Anxiety?
When researching cannabis and anxiety, you often find opposing statements. We’re warned that those with anxiety or depressions shouldn’t use cannabis. At the same time, cannabis is prescribed for anxiety and depression. Learn about why this contradiction exists and whether cannabis causes or lowers anxiety.
Dr James Connell
- Cannabis is prescribed for anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
- CBD is the main cannabinoid prescribed for anxiety and has very limited side effects. It’s quite safe.
- THC can also be prescribed for anxiety however requires more vigilance and caution when taken with anxiety or other mental health conditions.
In this video, Dr Jim explains why there’s a contradiction around whether cannabis can be used to help with anxiety or whether people with anxiety and other mental health concerns shouldn’t use cannabis.
In this article, we answer a question that was asked by a honahlee community member named Chloe. Here’s Chloe’s question
“I’ve been reading through the info on your website (which has been extremely helpful by the way – so thank you so much for it). However, I’ve come across a discrepancy I would like some further info on.
Mainly on the use of cannabis for anxiety, it says on your Medical Conditions Treated by Cannabis (And Side Effects) that the TGA has approved use of medical cannabis for anxiety (and anxiety disorders) in the past. But then further down in the next subheading (Who should not be using cannabis) it states that people with anxiety disorders shouldn’t be using it.
Basically I’m just looking for clarification on whether it is advised to use medical cannabis for anxiety and anxiety disorders. I have found this same conflicting information on a few different sites, while also hearing anecdotal evidence that it has helped alleviate anxiety symptoms for individuals. Any information you could provide to me would be greatly appreciated.”
Cannabis causes and relieves anxiety – a contradiction
Mental health is one of the most commonly TGA approved areas for medical cannabis. These conditions include:
To understand if it’s safe to use cannabis for anxiety, you need to understand cannabis and the chemical compounds CBD and THC, a bit more deeply. Once you understand CBD and THC at a high level, (no pun intended), and the concept of a ‘therapeutic window’, you’ll see how cannabinoids, one’s therapeutic window and dosing all work together.
Without an understanding of these three concepts, it’s easy to understand why these contradictory statements are often made.
CBD is useful and ‘safer’
There are multiple types of medical cannabis products prescribed for anxiety. Cannabidiol (CBD) predominant treatments are very safe and quite effective for anxiety. And, it’s rare that CBD actually induces any further anxiety in patients. Occasionally at very high doses, it can cause irritability and hyperactivity. But, this is more common with CBD isolates.
So, when we talk about cannabis medicine and anxiety, CBD isn’t something that you generally need to worry about.
THC is useful but needs more vigilance
THC is also prescribed to help with anxiety disorders. It can help with relaxation, sleep, and it can help with traumatic memories and changing the nature of the way that we remember certain events. THC can also provide an alternative perspective on certain situations and helps distance people from the stress of their situations.
But THC is something that directly stimulates the cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It has a stronger impact on parts of the system that regulate anxiety. In some cases, more often than CBD, too high a dose of THC may provoke cannabis-induced anxiety.
The ECS’s purpose is to maintain homeostasis and balance within systems around the body. This means that the endocannabinoid system needs to be able to upregulate and downregulate certain neurotransmitters within the systems that are being activated. Because the goal of cannabinoid medicine is to help the body find and maintain homeostasis again, when THC is used in too high a dose, it can actually start inducing the symptoms that you’re trying to alleviate.
The therapeutic window
A therapeutic window is the drug dose needed to maintain the benefits and exposure of the medicine that’s effective but avoids any adverse events (AEs). In this case, an AE would be increasing anxiety rather than lowering it.
Everyone has their own therapeutic window where THC is effective. Some people have a very narrow therapeutic window and this means that they’re more prone to getting unwanted side effects with a lower dosage. Some people have a really large therapeutic window. So this means that they could use higher doses of THC and not get an increase in paranoia or any anxiety.
Dosages and your therapeutic window
Even if you have a narrow therapeutic window, THC may still be beneficial in treating your mental health related condition or their anxiety. It just means that when initiating treatment with a THC formulation, you need to start at extremely small. Dr. Jim says:
“We need to start extremely small, pretty much micro doses. And, the treatment needs to be done in a very intentional sort of manner. So people need to be very aware of how the THC is making them feel.
In the early phase of using a THC formulation, it’s really beneficial to do a sensitization protocol. This sensitization protocol involves using very small, barely perceptible doses for the first four days. What this often does is, instead of overwhelming the endocannabinoid system, it stimulates the endocannabinoid system and it often broadens the therapeutic window for that person.
The result is that the individual may have a broader range of dosing where THC and cannabis medicines are effective for treating their conditions.”
Without taking a low and slow approach in the early stages of treatment with cannabis medicines, you may get a worsening of symptoms. Too high a dose can cause paranoia, agitation, restlessness, and actually make you feel a lot worse. This can and does put people off using cannabis medicines. This can also happen with other medications, however formalised dosages make it less likely to happen.
Dr. Jim also makes the important observation that, “It’s important to have proper guidance when using such a powerful medicine because of the potential for it to have such wide-ranging effects, and because it’s tapping into a really powerful system within the body that is so important for maintaining balance and homeostasis. Cannabis can affect a lot of different body systems.”
So, does medical cannabis cause anxiety?
Medical cannabis may cause anxiety if not administered properly. Cannabidiol (CBD) is relatively safe for anxiety, however, at very high doses it may increase anxiety.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is more likely to give you anxiety at a lower dosage and therefore must be monitored very carefully when first starting treatment. Microdosing and a low and slow approach reduce the likelihood of increased anxiety from cannabis medicines.
CBD is a very safe and potentially effective cannabinoid for anxiety. THC can also be used by people with anxiety and it can improve symptoms.
THC however, needs to be used with a lot of caution. It needs to be done in a very intentional, individualised and slow titration to get to that right dose. Otherwise, cannabis can increase anxiety rather than lower it.
CBD oil and all other forms of cannabis are only legal with a prescription in Australia. If you’re interested in buying cannabis for anxiety speak to your GP or a cannabis specialist.
We hope you found this helpful. If you have cannabis questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us a question. If you know someone that this might help, please feel free to share this article. Thanks to Dr. Jim for taking the time to share his wealth of knowledge with the honahlee community.