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Is cbd oil bad for mental health

5 Mental Health Uses for CBD

Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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The cannabis plant has been utilized for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The plant contains more than 80 different compounds, which are known as cannabinoids. While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant and is well-known for its psychoactive properties, the second-most found compound, cannabidiol (CBD) does not have psychoactive effects.  

There has been a growing interest in the potential mental health benefits of CBD in recent years. A 2019 research letter published by JAMA Network Open reported a significant increase in Internet searches for CBD in the United States. While search rates remained steady between 2004 and 2014, there was a 125.9% increase between 2016 and 2017. In April 2019 alone, there were 6.4 million Google searches for CBD information.  

While there have been a number of studies suggesting that CBD might mental health benefits, a recent comprehensive review found that support for this use was scant and that further investigation is needed to substantiate the purported benefits.  

There are a number of conditions that CBD is purported to help, although more research is needed to determine the potential effects and benefits of CBD. Some of the existing studies suggest that CBD holds promise in the treatment of a number of conditions including depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and sleep issues, among other things.

Epilepsy

CBD appears to have a range of benefits for neurologic disorders, including decreasing the frequency and severity of seizures. Some of these conditions, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), may not respond well to anti-seizure medications. Viral clips of CBD treatments effectively alleviating seizures were shared widely in social media in recent years, and research has supported the effectiveness of these treatments.

A large-scale study on the use of CBD in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy found that CBD reduced the frequency of seizures by more than 50% in 43% of the patients with Dravet syndrome. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a cannabis-derived medication containing CBD, Epidiolex, to treat certain childhood seizure disorders.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a common problem for many people. Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults each year. Some studies suggest that CBD may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. One study look at the possible neural basis for CBD reducing symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

A 2015 study published in the journal Neurotherapeutics analyzed the existing preclinical studies on the use of CBD for anxiety and found that CBD was effective for a number of anxiety conditions including:

However, the authors of the study note that while the substance has considerable potential, further research is needed to better determine the therapeutic benefits and long-term effects.

Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S., affecting an estimated 17.3 million adults each year. Effective treatments are available, which include psychotherapy and medication, although interest in complementary and alternative treatments has also grown in recent years.

CBD has been investigated for having potential antidepressant effects. Some antidepressants work by acting on serotonin receptors in the brain. Low serotonin levels may play a role in the development of depression, and animal studies suggest that CBD might have an impact on these receptors which may produce antidepressant effects.

A 2018 study found that the antidepressant-like effects that CBD produces depend upon the serotonin levels in the brain. Cannabidiol does not appear to increase serotonin levels but instead affects how the brain responds to serotonin that is already present in your body.

Sleep Difficulties

Because CBD may have a calming effect, it may also hold promise in treating sleeping difficulties. Sleep is a critical component of mental health and well-being, yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a third of U.S. adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep each night. This is problematic since not getting enough sleep is linked to health conditions such as depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

One study conducted with adults who had symptoms of anxiety and poor sleep found that 65% experienced improvements in sleep quality scores after a month of taking an average of 25mg of CBD daily, although those scores fluctuated over time. Further research is needed to determine the possible effects of CBD on sleep.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD affects approximately 6.1% of U.S. adults. It is characterized by symptoms including re-experiencing traumatic events, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and avoidance of things that may trigger memories of the trauma.

Some research suggests that CBD may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of this condition. In one study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that an oral dose of CBD in addition to routine psychiatric treatment for PTSD was associated with a reduction in symptoms.  

Should You Try CBD?

While CBD holds promise, a recent comprehensive review of the research suggests that support for the mental health uses of CBD remains insufficient. This 2019 study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry and looked at 83 studies on the use of CBD to treat mental illness.  

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The researchers looked specifically at six different disorders: depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychosis. The review examined previous studies dating from 1980 through 2018.

The review concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the use of CBD in the treatment of mental health conditions.

The study did find that pharmaceutical TCH (either with or without CBD) was linked to small improvements in symptoms of anxiety among people with other medical conditions such as chronic pain and MS, although this evidence was considered low-quality.

This does not mean that CBD isn’t necessarily effective; of the studies reviewed, most only included a small number of participants, followed participants for a short period of time, and less than half were randomized controlled trials.

Instead, this study suggests that there simply isn’t yet enough high-quality evidence to support the use of CBD to treat mental conditions. This may change in the future as more research is carried out.

Many experts remain optimistic that CBD may prove useful for a range of mental health conditions. “CBD has shown therapeutic efficacy in a range of animal models of anxiety and stress, reducing both behavioral and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety,” suggested Nora D. Volkow, the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse in testimony presented to the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

Types

CBD is available in a number of different forms and products. Cannabidiol can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana plants, which differ in terms of how much CBD and THC can be extracted.

CBD from hemp plants contains only small amounts of THC that are not sufficient to produce subjective psychoactive effects. CBD produced from marijuana plants, however, may contain varying amounts of THC which can produce unwanted effects.

There are also three main types of CBD available.

  • Isolate contains only CBD
  • Full-spectrum contains other compounds found in the cannabis plant, including THC
  • Broad-spectrum contains other compounds from the cannabis plant but not THC

People may choose to take a full-spectrum product because research has shown that when cannabinoids including THC and CBD are taken together, it magnifies the therapeutic impact, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.   Research also suggests that CBD can actually counteract the negative effects caused by THC.  

Like full-spectrum CBD, products labeled as broad-spectrum contain multiple cannabinoids, which are purported to provide the therapeutic benefits of the entourage effect without the psychoactive effects of THC.

Some of the ways that CBD can be used include:

  • Oral: This includes oils (which are made by infusing cannabidiol with a carrier oil), oil tinctures (which are produced by combining CBD with alcohol or water), sprays, and capsules.
  • Topical: This includes salves or lotions that are applied to the skin
  • Edibles: This can include candies, gummies, and beverages.
  • Inhaled: Some CBD oils are specially formulated to be used as vaping oil, although there has been an increase in concern about the health dangers posed by vaping.

Topical solutions may produce localized effects, but only those taken by mouth are likely to produce any mental health effects. It is important to note that while there is a wide variety of these products available on the market, the FDA has not approved any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD product. Many of these products may vary in terms of what they contain, their potency, and their effectiveness.

It is also important to note that while hemp-derived CBD that contains less than 0.3% THC is legal by federal law, it is still illegal in some states. You should always check your state laws before purchasing a CBD product.

Possible Side Effects

While CBD may have some benefits, it is also important to consider some of the possible risks. Research suggests that CBD appears to be well-tolerated at doses up to 600mg.  

While CBD appears to be well-tolerated, that does not mean that it is without side effects. While these may vary depending on the individual, some reported side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

However, understanding the potential side effects is difficult because of the absence of regulation and manufacturing guidelines, which means that there is a lack of consistency in terms of purity and labeling. In other words, it is difficult to determine if the side effects are the same across different products, formulations, and dosages because it is often difficult to determine exactly what is in the products that are currently on the market.

Potential Pitfalls

It is important to talk to your doctor if you are thinking about taking CBD products. This is particularly true if you have an existing medical or psychiatric condition, or if you are currently taking any medications or supplements.

CBD may potentially have an effect on your condition or may interact with a medication that you are taking. For example, CBD can sometimes worsen symptoms of anxiety. CBD can also interfere with the metabolism of certain medications, which may change how your medications affect your body.

Some other concerns to consider before taking CBD:

  • Drug testing: There have been reports of people failing drug tests after using CBD products that are labeled as containing no THC. While most CBD products contain only trace amounts of THC, there is still the possibility that these products may produce a positive result on a drug test. It is also important to remember that full-spectrum CBD products do contain varying amounts of THC.  
  • Mislabeling: Labeling accuracy also appears to be a common problem. One study found that almost 70% of CBD products sold online were mislabeled and contained significant amounts of THC.   This can be problematic if you are taking CBD to address a mental health condition such as anxiety, since THC may have unwanted psychoactive effects. Mislabeling may also lead to positive drug test results, especially if the product contains more THC than it claims.
  • Other possible risks: Finally, it is important to remember that researchers still do not know all the possible risks or benefits of taking CBD. More research is needed to learn about the mental and physical long-term effects of CBD, so you should always use caution and consult your doctor before using it.
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A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a mental health condition, you should talk to a doctor or mental health professional. Self-medicating with CBD or other supplements can lead to delays in treatment, which may cause your symptoms to worsen. CBD also has the potential to aggravate some symptoms such as anxiety, sleep problems, and psychosis.

If you are still interested in trying CBD as an addition to your regular treatment, work with a healthcare provider who can help monitor your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a product and dosage that is appropriate based on your symptoms and any medications you are taking. Always be sure to watch out for any potential negative side effects and be sure to talk to your doctor before you stop taking CBD.

CBD Oil for Mental Health—Should You Take It Too?

Is this supplement simply snake oil, or is it actually good for mental health?

THE BASICS

  • What Is CBD?
  • Find a therapist near me

About 20 percent of the population suffers from some form of anxiety. If you have anxiety, you may be looking for a new way to relax your body and mind. Many of my patients and followers on Twitter and Facebook have reached out to ask me whether CBD oil is the newest snake oil, or whether can it really help ameliorate symptoms of anxiety without causing side effects.

What is CBD oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a natural plant-based oil that contains phyto (plant) chemicals called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are “feel good” molecules naturally made by the body when we are feeling relaxed and secure or involved in something that makes us happy, like hugging someone we care about or sitting down to a meal we are looking forward to. Cannabinoids are also released when we sleep well and exercise. Cannabinoids bind to little docking stations in our bodies called cannabinoid receptors that help stimulate those feel-good responses. Discovered in 1992, the main cannabinoid molecule is called anandamide, which is translated from the Sanskrit as “bliss molecule.”

The cannabinoid system is key to helping the body keep itself in balance. This system ensures our stomach and intestines run well, keeps inflammation down, and modulates pain while helping to maintain our mood in a good place. Research suggests the cannabinoids from CBD can stop the breakdown of anandamide. When we retain more anandamide in our body, there’s more bliss.

Will CBD oil make me high, like marijuana?

No, it will not. I tell my patients if you are looking to feel high, then you will be disappointed. Supplemental CBD oil comes from the hemp plant. Hemp is a cannabis plant and a close cousin of marijuana. However, CBD from hemp has practically no tetra-hydro-cannabinoids (THC). THC is the substance in marijuana that has psychoactive effects and can give you a high. In fact, a number of studies on CBD showed that CBD itself can counter the negative effects of THC—including appetite issues, weight gain, and paranoia.

Is CBD oil legal?

CBD that comes from hemp is legal in all 50 states. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, CBD has no effective amount of THC. There is a tiny bit, but it is not enough to cause any psychoactive effects. As a result, there are none of the legal concerns associated with marijuana.

Is CBD effective for mental health challenges?

For decades, the World Health Organization’s expert committee on drug dependence has offered a long list of conditions that CBD may benefit. Research studies on both animals and humans have shown that CBD may help lower feelings of isolation, relieve autism symptoms, and reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It seems CBD can calm the brain and support the hippocampus, which is a brain area important for healthy emotion and memory.

One study showed CBD could reduce social anxiety in a way comparable to ipsapirone and diazepam (valium). A 2012 double-blind, randomized clinical trial looked at the benefits of CBD for psychosis. In this study, 40 volunteer patients were given CBD or an antipsychotic. Both treatments helped patient symptoms equally, while the group taking CBD enjoyed many fewer side effects and no problems with movement, weight gain, or hormonal dysregulation—all common side effects of antipsychotic medications. A version of CBD oil was just studied for its benefits in childhood epilepsy—and will now be released as simply a CBD oil.

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THE BASICS

  • What Is CBD?
  • Find a therapist near me

Is CBD safe?

CBD seems to be exceedingly safe. In fact, the FDA-approved use of CBD in epilepsy was studied in children, which suggests both kids and adults can use it safely. While it has effects on relaxing the body and helping with pain, CBD does not suppress the breathing centers of the brain the way opioid drugs do, which is why there is not the concern, even in overdose, that you would have for pain-killing drugs.

Since the 1960s, medical research has collected research supporting the safety of CBD. Typical doses of 10mg to 100mg a day show no negative effects. Even one study where patients took 1,280 mg a day did not see a problem. The director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse has stated that CBD oil is safe, and recently the FDA approved CBD oil for use in children with epilepsy.

CBD Essential Reads

Could CBD Oil Help Treat Schizophrenia?

Despite What You May Think, CBD Is Not Weed

I have been working with CBD in my practice for about two years and have not seen a problem. Sometimes, when patients get more relaxed, it can give them a strange sensation. Understandably, that can be concerning to patients who are not used to feeling calm.

Please note that, because of the way the liver works, CBD may affect the clearance of other drugs you are taking. As always, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new herbal supports, especially if you are taking prescription medications.

Can CBD oil cause a positive result in a drug test?

Since CBD has practically no THC, there is, in theory, little to no chance it will create a positive drug urine test. And, the follow-up confirmatory test for marijuana is too specific to come up positive from CBD. Having said this, it is important to purchase CBD from nutraceutical companies who manufacture it from varieties of hemp containing the lowest THC.

If you are not sure, and this issue could be a problem for you, you may not want to risk it—or talk to your employers about CBD oil first, before using it.

How much CBD oil should I take?

I usually recommend that patients start with 15mg of CBD once or twice a day. This oil is best taken with food. Instead of self-prescribing, I strongly recommend you work with a practitioner knowledgeable in natural medicine who is experienced with CBD, especially if you are taking other medications and/or if you have mental health symptoms that could be severe.

How about the CBD beverages and foods that are so popular?

Right now, many companies are trying to fill their shelves with CBD-infused products. My guess is that the vast majority of these are not of good quality and may contain little to no CBD. If you are going to use CBD oil as a supplement for mental health, ask your practitioner for a high-quality version that you can take in a prescribed dosage. Don’t try to get it through other products where the amount and quality are not well understood.

Remember: General anxiety support

In my books, I always recommend not simply taking supplements for anxiety, but making dietary and lifestyle changes and adopting stress-relieving rituals and therapies to bring full healing to your body. Also, visit with your doctor regularly or when issues pop up. While CBD is a very good supplement, I find its power is enhanced when combined with natural modifications.

For a more thorough look at the research and references, please see my academic review on CBD here.

Beale C. et al. Prolonged Cannabidiol Treatment Effects on Hippocampal Subfield Volumes in Current Cannabis Users. Cannabis and Cannabinoid ResearchVol. 3, No. 1. Published Online:1 Apr 2018

Bongiorno PB. CBD for Mental Health. Naturopathic News and Reviews. in press.

Crippa JA, et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Jan;25(1):121-30

Croxford JL, Yamamura T. Cannabinoids and the immune system: potential for the treatment of inflammatory diseases? J Neuroimmunol. 2005 Sep; 166(1-2):3-18.

Dasgupta A. Chapter 10. Laboratory methods for measuring drugs of abuse in urine. in Alcohol, Drugs, Genes and the Clinical Laboratory An Overview for Healthcare and Safety Professionals. Academic Press. 2017, Pages 167-191

FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm611046.htm accessed on August 13, 2018.

Hahn B. The Potential of Cannabidiol Treatment for Cannabis Users With Recent-Onset Psychosis. Schizophr Bull. 2018 Jan 13;44(1):46-53.

Leweke FM et al. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Transl Psychiatry. 2012 Mar 20;2:e94. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.15.

Lewis M. CBD for Head Trauma. Integrative Medicine for Mental Health. Presentation. September 2018. Dallas, Texas.

McGuire P1, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175(3):225-231.

Martin-Santos R, et al. Acute effects of a single, oral dose of d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) administration in healthy volunteers. Curr Pharm Des. 2012; 18(32):4966-79.

Perucca, E. Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last? J Epilepsy Res. 2017 Dec; 7(2): 61–76.

Zuardi AW, et al. Cannabidiol monotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia. J Psychopharmacol. 2006 Sep; 20(5):683-6.