Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the dominant non-psychoactive compound within cannabis. Unlike its cousin THC, CBD does not bind to receptors in the brain and nervous system; instead, the compound seems to influence the body to produce more of a certain type of molecule that has a variety of positive effects.
Many CBD users assert that one of those positive effects concerns mental wellbeing — that using CBD can be beneficial for those suffering from psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia and more. Is this true, and how should those diagnosed with these conditions benefit the most from CBD products?
How CBD Could Help Certain Conditions
Research on CBD is relatively young. Though the compound was first discovered in 1940, stigma and law prohibiting the cultivation and consumption of all cannabis prevented proper study. Now that an increasing number of states has passed medical and recreational cannabis regulations, researchers have more reliable access to cannabis compounds — and they are finally uncovering the remarkable benefits of reefer.
Some of the most impactful discoveries concerning CBD indicate that the compound has positive effects on the body’s nervous system. In fact, the research on CBD’s benefit to epilepsy sufferers is so well founded that the FDA approved a medication that uses CBD as its primary ingredient. Researchers believe that CBD has some neuroprotective qualities that might also make it an excellent tool in combating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
But — what about mental illness? Unfortunately, psychological conditions are not easy to study. Unlike most physical maladies, mental disorders do not always have clear causes and clear solutions; a treatment plan that may work well to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in one patient may make those symptoms worse in another patient. Thus, in exploring CBD’s effectiveness at helping those suffering from mental illness, researchers need more time to come up with a conclusive answer.
In the meantime, there are some early indications that it might be useful for those looking for greater mental wellness to visit a CBD store. For example, a 2015 paper published in “Neurotherapeutics” analyzed a number of preclinical studies and determined that CBD could be effective in helping sufferers of generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2018 study suggests that CBD has antidepressant-like effects, not because it causes the brain to release more serotonin but because it alters how the brain responds to the serotonin already present in the body. Finally, a study following those suffering from insomnia as a result of a psychological condition found that 65 percent of patients saw an improvement in the quality of their sleep after a month of consuming at least 25 milligrams of CBD daily.
Perhaps most importantly, CBD does not seem to pose any threat to users. Generally, the worst side effects associated with CBD are dry mouth and fatigue. Patients tend to feel relatively safe experimenting with CBD to discover whether it will improve their own mental health circumstances.
Why CBD Should Not Be the Only Treatment
Still, experts in the mental health field caution against relying only on CBD as a form of treatment for mental illness. There are two main reasons for this.
First, as mentioned before, mental health is complex, and there is no simple cure to diseases like anxiety and depression. Often, patients diagnosed with these conditions benefit from a variety of therapies used in conjunction with one another, to include forms of psychotherapy as well as different pharmaceuticals. By opting to take CBD only, a patient is denying themselves the opportunity to achieve wellness through other means, which might offer a more permanent solution than reliance on a cannabinoid.
Additionally, psychology experts tend to advise combining CBD with other treatment strategies because CBD on its own does not appear to be particularly powerful. Though early research shows that the compound can have some effect at improving a user’s mood, it is not nearly enough to combat panic, suicidal thoughts or other extreme symptoms of psychological disorders.
There is still plenty we can learn about the effects CBD and other cannabinoids can have on the human body and mind. For now, those in pursuit of mental wellbeing can sample CBD — as long as they do so under the supervision of a mental health professional and in conjunction with known life-saving treatments.