CBD oil has become popular to treat anxiety & depression, but does it work? Learn about the pros & cons of this alternative treatment. Cannabis and Depression: What’s the Correlation? Due to varied genetics, age, and preexisting conditions, people often have different reactions to cannabis. Though the core components of Interest in the use of CBD to for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression has grown in recent years. Explore mental health uses for CBD.
CBD Oil for Anxiety & Depression: The Pros & Cons
Everyone’s talking about it, so we’re here to help you weigh up the pros and cons, without bias.
The pros & cons of taking CBD oil:
1. Depression & Anxiety
With symptoms like excessive worry, extreme self-consciousness, chest pain, and panic attacks, anxiety can be a debilitating condition. Depression can be equally destructive—feeling sad, with little interest in the activities you once enjoyed.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of options for treating anxiety and depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are popular, but they come with a host of side effects. Others have the risk of addiction.
Many people search for a safer, more natural way to treat anxiety and depression, so new options are being developed and researched all the time.
One emerging treatment is CBD oil. It’s becoming more popular with each passing day, but there are still major questions about how effective it is at treating anxiety and depression—and how exactly it helps.
As a fairly new and little-understood product, it’s important to learn as much as you can about CBD oil for anxiety and depression—and speak to your mental health provider—before you decide to try it.
2. What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a type of cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are chemicals that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol is extracted from the plant and made into an oil.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is another type of cannabinoid. It’s the chemical responsible for the “high” one feels after using marijuana. Because CBD is not THC, you cannot get high from using CBD oil.
CBD oil is suggested to have positive effects for people with:
- and other mental health disorders
- in addition to depression and anxiety
- Studies have shown inconclusive results for most of these uses, with the exceptions of epilepsy, anxiety, and depression
3. How Does CBD Oil Work?
CBD oil for depression and anxiety is still being studied and doesn’t have as much research to back it up as many other treatments do. Make sure you talk to your doctor about whether it’s a good fit for you and how to incorporate it into your treatment plan.
4. CBD for anxiety
It isn’t known exactly how CBD oil combats anxiety, but it’s thought to work with a receptor in your brain called CB1. Researchers believe the interactions between CBD oil and CB1 alter serotonin signals.
The core problem at the heart of anxiety disorders is low serotonin—a neurotransmitter related to mood and well-being. SSRIs, for instance, work by blocking the absorption of serotonin in your brain, meaning you get more serotonin. CBD oil may do something similar.
Studies have shown that CBD oil can be effective in treating various types of anxiety, including:
- Social anxiety disorder (PTSD)
Behavioral symptoms of anxiety and physiological symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat, were reduced in some studies. It’s also been shown to be effective against anxiety-related insomnia.
5. CBD for Depression
CBD oil works similarly for people suffering from depression because depression happens when serotonin levels are low. Increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain has a positive effect on your emotions and motor skills.
CBD oil may also affect the hippocampus, which plays a large role in regulating your emotions. When you have depression, your hippocampus doesn’t function as well. CBD oil may help promote neurogenesis or the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus.
6. How to use CBD
You take CBD oil by either putting a few drops under your tongue with a dropper or mixing it with food. CBD gummies are also becoming popular.
7.Disadvantages of CBD Oil
While CBD oil for anxiety and depression holds promise, there are significant disadvantages to its use.
First, it isn’t widely available. You can only buy CBD oil in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Second, no CBD oil products are approved by the FDA for the treatment of anxiety or depressive disorders. Only one CBD oil product is FDA-approved, and that is for the treatment of epilepsy.
Without the oversight and regulation of the FDA, CBD oils vary widely in quality. Manufacturers can more or less put whatever they want on labels.
According to Marcel Bonn-Miller, adjunct assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 43% of CBD oil products contain too little CBD, while about 26% contain too much.
Due to its lack of regulation, approximately one in five CBD products contain THC, meaning they could give you a high. THC can increase anxiety instead of reducing it. The additional risk in taking CBD oil is that even if the product contains trace amounts of THC, you could still test positive for marijuana on a drug test.
Quality CBD oil is considered safe, but it does come with a few side effects.
- Dry mouth
- Sleeping problems
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
More concerning than these side effects is the potential harm CBD oil can inflict on your liver. About 10% of people taking CBD in studies showed increases in liver enzymes. This increase could indicate potential liver damage. These concerns were severe enough for 2% to 3% of participants in the study to drop out due to concerns from the people running the study.
There is also the potential for dangerous drug interactions when taking CBD oil with another medication. If you are taking an antidepressant or any other medications, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking CBD oil.
8. Other Alternative Anxiety & Depression Treatments
Although CBD oil as a treatment for anxiety disorders and depression is a potentially viable option, there are alternative treatments—besides medication—that are safe and effective.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is one such treatment. It offers hope for patients with anxiety disorders by restoring the neurons in the amygdala—the part of your brain involved in the fight-or-flight response—to a normal level of functioning. In those with depression, TMS stimulates the thalamus and hippocampus, which work to control the brain’s emotional responses.
TMS does this by stimulating your brain using electromagnetic pulses. It has very few side effects, and results can be felt in just two weeks.
Explore TMS side effects
Many people are searching for natural treatments for anxiety and depression, and it isn’t hard to see why.
It’s always a good idea to be open-minded to new treatments, especially when there is clinical evidence to back them up. The most important things to do are conduct thorough research and discuss any options you’re considering with your doctor.
Cannabis and Depression: What’s the Correlation?
Due to varied genetics, age, and preexisting conditions, people often have different reactions to cannabis. Though the core components of cannabis — THC, CBD, and terpenes — usually produce constant and measurable results, there are always variables unique to each person that can produce undesired effects. So, can cannabis make you depressed? The short answer is ‘yes.’ That said, there are some notable conditions that can increase or decrease your chances of feeling depressed after smoking cannabis (or consuming it in another form).
In today’s guide, we will answer a few important questions regarding the relationship between cannabis use and depression.
Why do I feel depressed after smoking cannabis?
Is it normal that cannabis makes me sad?
Finally, what are some steps I can follow to enjoy cannabis and avoid negative side effects?
If you’re feeling depressed, sad, or anxious when using cannabis, this guide will help you learn some potential reasons, as well as some tips for avoiding these effects in the future.
Can cannabis cause depression?
There are dozens of different factors that can contribute to the positive or negative effects you may experience while using cannabis. If you’re feeling depressed during or after cannabis use, here are a few explanations as to why this might be happening:
The main reason people experience varying effects when using cannabis is that different cannabinoid content and terpene compositions result in dramatically different emotional experiences. For example, some canna-consumers report that cannabis use renders better results for their mental health problems like depression than they experience with antidepressants. On the other hand, other users have reported symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia when using potent cannabis products. The point being, as individuals, our brains react uniquely to various inputs. Variables like underlying medical conditions, genetics, and even environment can all lead to various experiences with both cannabis and traditional mental health treatment options.
The CBD level and terpene composition of your cannabis are also important factors. If you only experience negative effects on occasion, it is most likely the result of a formulation or dosage that is not optimal for you. Fortunately, you can easily take control of your cannabis composition and dosage by switching to a cannabis product that is consistently and accurately dosed, like Koan Cordials.
As previously mentioned, unique factors about you (age, genetics, pre-existing conditions, diet, etc.) all have an effect on your experience. Some people might have a sensitivity to THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids in cannabis. Given that THC in high concentrations, can lead to undesirable mental health events, it is usually the best compound to begin “dialing in” to discover the dosage that works best for you. Spoiler alert: Most users actually require a lot less THC than they think in order to achieve their desired effects.
High doses of THC are known to trigger feelings of anxiety or paranoia, which is surprising because lower doses have actually shown the ability to produce a calming effect. Therefore, too much THC is probably the first thing to consider if you’re wondering why you’re feeling depressed after ingesting cannabis. CBD can actually dampen some of the negative effects of THC — even at higher doses.
If you feel that THC contributes to your depression — or any other mental health concern for that matter — you can find products with a higher concentration of CBD to help mitigate any negative effects. Alternatively, you can use a product that is more balanced, with more CBD and less THC. If you believe that you are sensitive to THC and suspect that it amplifies mental health concerns like paranoia or depression , you may also want to consider finding a product that contains a balanced blend of other non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD or CBG. Additionally, you may look for terpenes that have shown evidence of potential antidepressant effects like limonene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene.
Intent matters more than most people realize. Even if your product’s formula is right for you, the wrong setting or state of mind could result in disappointing experiences. While many people with depression use cannabis to fight the condition, consuming cannabis in a depressed state could actually worsen your symptoms. In other words, if you are already feeling sad, cannabis might amplify your negative mood.
There are two factors within your control that can greatly reduce the onset of depression symptoms when using cannabis. First, ensure that you’re in an environment in which you feel comfortable. If possible, try to be in a place that makes you feel safe and happy. For example, you may feel safe consuming cannabis at home with a loved one, but you may not feel at peace consuming cannabis with strangers in an unfamiliar space.
Second, try to avoid using cannabis if you’re already feeling depressed. It can be tempting to use cannabis as an “escape,” but this can actually do more harm than good. That said, if you can keep the THC level and dosage at moderate levels, research shows that both THC and CBD can have antidepressant effects — regardless of your current state of mind.
Does cannabis make your depression worse? If so, look for these products.
If you find that cannabis may cause or amplify mental health problems like depression, you may not want to abandon cannabis entirely. In fact, there are a number of potential physical and mental health benefits associated with cannabis use. So, what are some products that can allow you to continue enjoying cannabis without the negative side effects?
First, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all product. Everybody reacts a little differently to cannabis, so finding the right product for you will likely require some research and self-discovery. That said, it’s important to know what to look for in a cannabis product.
Generally speaking, you should choose products that list the amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes so that you can have control over your emotional experience. It may require some experimentation, but you can almost certainly find the right THC & CBD ratios and dosages for you. At the end of the day, the composition of your cannabis is the most important factor.
However, the composition is almost irrelevant if you don’t get the dosage right. Even if you choose a low-THC blend, you could end up smoking or vaping it in large quantities, thereby consuming a high level of THC. This, in turn, could bring on or worsen depression symptoms.
Many wellness-minded cannabis users often opt for consumption methods that allow you to better control the dosages. Smoking and vaping are by far the worst methods if you’re trying to achieve a precise dosage. It’s nearly impossible to get the numbers exactly right with either method, even if you’re using it as a medical treatment. Edibles and tinctures make it easier, but you still have to manage the measurements yourself, which could still result in a bad experience if your product is poorly homogenized [mixed]. Thus, single-dose cannabis products are the best way to get the dosage right and not overdo the THC content. Additionally, single-serving cannabis products like Koan Cordials offer users the ability to predict and repeat experiences due to the laboratory precision in which they’re produced.
Can cannabis cause depression or other mental health issues like psychosis?
Up to this point, we’ve largely focused on the short-term effects of cannabis use. In some cases, cannabis use can result in bouts of sadness or depression. However, it’s also important to look at the long-term mental health effects of cannabis consumption.
Research shows that regularly consuming high concentrations of THC comes with an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, and mental illnesses. This is why cannabis composition and dosage are so important. Without the right levels of THC, CBD, and terpenes, you could get caught in a vicious cycle of trying to treat your mental illness with cannabis, but only making it worse. It should be said that, in the event you ever feel that your current state of mental health is beyond your control, there is no shame or harm in reaching out to one of the numerous mental health services for guidance. Be it symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, addiction, or even if you’re not sure what you’re feeling, maintaining your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Intentionality can also play a major role in whether or not cannabis triggers depression or another mental illness. For example, if you use cannabis to alleviate anxiety and you understand the composition and dosage you need to achieve this goal, you will be far less likely to consume too much and trigger an adverse mental episode. If you don’t know the best levels for you yet, consider microdosing cannabis with low-THC, high-CBD formulas, like Koan’s Calm Cordial. If you find that your local dispensary can’t keep Koan Cordials on the shelf, you can also order online and have them delivered right to your front door (California residents only).
We are experts in cannabis, but we are not physicians. Therefore, it’s extremely important to seek out professional help if you feel the onset or worsening of depression. While altering your cannabis intake could have a positive effect on your mental state, you should still speak to a doctor before making any major health decisions.
The bottom line
So, can cannabis make you depressed? Possibly.. However, if you can approach cannabis use with the correct intention and control both the composition and dosage, you are far less likely to experience symptoms of depression or other mental health issues. As a result, avoiding the onset of additional depression symptoms with cannabis is largely within your control. Fortunately, brands like Koan Cordials all but eliminate the burden of identifying reliably and accurately dosed cannabis, leaving you with the ability to focus on what matters most, achieving an enlightening relationship with an emphasis on your mental health.
This article is for informational purposes only and not to be used as medical advice. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your diet, medications, or daily routine. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his first written work. After serving as a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began teaching English abroad. In 2017, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across various industries. During this time, Matthew also built an online following through his film blog. If you’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his personal website!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Mood changes
- Appetite changes
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.
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.
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.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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