In recent months, many of my patients are wondering if CBD oil is a viable medical alternative for anxiety and depression. Prior to six months ago, I rarely thought about it. However, it seems that the marketing has picked up and there are signs, flyers, and numerous products touting the major benefits of CBD. Whether its topical, oral, or vapor, it appears to be jumping in popularity.
CBD is cannabidiol. It comes from the hemp plant. It does not contain THC, so there is no risk of “getting high”. It is the second most active ingredient in the marijuana plant.
As a medical provider, I have started researching this topic since many of my patients are curious about it. However, finding reputable medical research using human subjects has proved to be limited. After scouring the internet and a variety of medical journals, here is what I have learned:
- Most of the medical research using human subjects confirms that CBD oil is helpful for seizure disorders. In fact, there is an FDA approved medication, called Epidiolex, which contains CBD.
- Based on a few studies (using animals and small samples of humans), it can improve social anxiety disorders. It has not been widely studied in other anxiety disorders, such a panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive- compulsive disorder.
- There is limited evidence or research to confirm that it helps with insomnia, PTSD, and depression
- A few studies reported that depression could be a side effect of using CBD
- The main concern highlighted in the research is that CBD is not federally regulated, so there is no way of knowing what you are actually putting into your body. A couple of articles reported that patients were getting THC in their CBD. Another researcher reported that the actual amounts of CBD in most products are “too minimal to have any effects”.
- Another important piece of information is that we don’t know the extent of how long patients need to take CBD and what will happen if they stop taking it. Is it something that needs to be taken daily in order to work? Can you stop it “cold turkey” or will you have withdrawal effects?
- The most common side effects of CBD oil are the following: dry mouth, small drops in blood pressure, and drowsiness. The less common side effects include diarrhea, changes in appetite, dizziness, and mood changes.
- CBD can interact with prescription medications.
Bottom line is that CBD could be a viable alternative for seizures and other mental health conditions but the current data is limited. I highly recommend that patients exercise extreme caution when using products with CBD.