PARKVILLE, Australia — Cannabidiol — or CBD — is becoming a popular remedy for various ailments in adults. Now researchers from Australia say it’s also a promising new treatment for young people battling anxiety. A pilot study from Orygen’s Center of Excellence in Youth Mental Health shows that cannabidiol halves the severity of symptoms and impairments associated with chronic anxiety.
Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating component of the cannabis sativa plant, meaning it won’t get you “high”.
For the pilot study, researchers recruited 31 participants between the ages of 12 and 25 from Orygen’s primary care providers. These participants had a diagnosed anxiety disorder and showed no improvement after five cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.
They started their treatment with one capsule of cannabidiol of 200 milligrams per day, which researchers increased to 400 milligrams after a week. Participants who showed no significant improvement with their anxiety symptoms had their dosage increased in 200 milligram increments to 800 milligrams per day. The patients were also offered two-weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for 12 weeks.
The results were remarkable. Researchers found that after 12 weeks of treatment with cannabidiol, young people with treatment-resistant anxiety had an average of 42.6 percent reduction in the severity of their anxiety symptoms and disabilities.
“The young people had fewer panic attacks and were able to do things they couldn’t do before, such as leave the house, go to school, participate in social situations, eat at restaurants, take public transport or make attention appointments,” explains the study author. from. Paul Amminger, professor at Orygen’s Center of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, said in a press release. “That’s an amazing change in the group that has had treatment-resistant, long-term severe to very severe anxiety.”
An anxiety treatment without major side effects
Amminger adds that the patients all showed a strong tolerance to cannabidiol during the study. The most common side effects were mild sedation and fatigue. This happened when the study authors increased the doses of cannabidiol, but the symptoms usually disappeared after a few days.
“We have not seen any side effects such as suicidal thoughts, irritability, or trouble sleeping, which are not uncommon in people taking SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor),” notes Amminger.
Researchers observed the reduction in anxiety symptoms on two different scales. The Hamilton Anxiety Rating, a clinician-rated scale, saw a 50.7 percent decrease in anxiety symptoms. Meanwhile, the General Fear of Severity and Impairment Scale, a self-assessment scale, saw a 42.6 percent decrease. Participants completed a questionnaire about symptoms such as panic attacks, situational fears, worries, and flashbacks.
“We’re seeing more and more young people experience anxiety — it’s the fastest-growing form of youth mental health problems, and we urgently need innovation in treatment,” said Patrick McGorry, co-investigator of the study and professor and executive director at Orygen. “Cannabidiol is a promising treatment option that appears safe and effective. We need further research to confirm this and explore its value.”
One of the most important aspects of using cannabidiol is that it is not addictive, Amminger says. It shows no neurological or psychiatric symptoms and does not cause significant side effects.
“Cannabidiol is not intoxicating and does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so it does not cause changes in thinking and perception, it does not make you ‘high’ and it is not addictive. Cannabidiol has even been used to treat addictive behaviors in other studies and may reduce some of the adverse and intoxicating effects of THC,” explains Amminger.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.