CBD & Mental Health is a complex issue. Preeminent public health institute Johns Hopkins estimates that over a quarter of all adults in the US are impacted by some form of mental illness:
“26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”
Such conditions range by type and severity, from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to depression to anxiety disorders.
While current pharmaceutical treatments, such as serotonin-reuptake reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium, among other drugs, do exist to treat various mental health disorders, they don’t work for everyone.
As we’ll explore here, the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD), based on current research, may be an effective substitute or complementary therapy for numerous mental health conditions.
Of course, always do your own research and consult with a healthcare professional before using CBD (or any other substance) to treat a mental health condition.
What is CBD and how does it interact with the nervous system?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a powerful compound unique to the cannabis plant (called a “cannabinoid”) with proven medicinal properties.
CBD produces its profound physiological effects via interaction with the human body’s endogenous cannabinoid system (also called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short).
The ECS spans every major organ in the body, including, most importantly for mental health, the brain and nervous system.
Accordingly, the ECS plays a central role in promoting and regulating optimal nervous system health:
“Among other functions, the ECS is involved in neuroprotection, modulation of nociception, regulation of motor activity, neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity and the control of certain phases of memory processing. In addition, the ECS acts to modulate the immune and inflammatory responses and to maintain a positive energy balance.”
As such, researchers are increasingly interested in “therapeutic applications of targeting the ECS for the treatment of neurodegeneration, pain and mental illness.”
CBD — whether ingested, smoked or vaped — targets the ECS in such a way, producing potential transformative mental health benefits that we’ll discuss now.
CBD for potentially treating anxiety
In the post-pandemic era, upwards of one-third of the American population has battled some form of chronic anxiety.
That amounts to literally hundreds of millions of people affected by this debilitating condition in the US alone, which can make even mundane daily tasks difficult and painful.
Multiple studies, including the one cited below from the medical journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, show that CBD may provide relief from anxiety:
“Existing pre-clinical and clinical evidence supports a possible role for CBD as a novel treatment for anxiety disorders. The findings… demonstrate the potential of CBD… to induce acute anxiolytic effects when administered as a single dose.”
Moreover, research shows that CBD, in contrast to many pharmaceutical drugs, is “safe, well tolerated, has few adverse effects, and demonstrates no potential for abuse or dependence in humans.”
In addition to CBD, the bountiful terpenes (naturally-occurring aromatic compounds) in the cannabis plant are also shown to exert anxiolytic (the technical term for anxiety-killing) effects in mammals.
Working in concert, CBD, terpenes, and the various other compounds in cannabis produce what researchers dub the “entourage effect.”
Via the entourage effect, the combined effects of those compounds multiply synergistically, so that their collective therapeutic effect is greater than the sum of the parts.
The entourage effect is one of the biggest benefits of selecting a full-spectrum CBD product rather than a concentrated CBD isolate product that contains pure CBD.
CBD for potentially treating depression
CBD has a storied history of use as a novel antidepressant therapy, but until recently it wasn’t clear how CBD might alleviate depression.
By way of the previously discussed endocannabinoid system and other systems, researchers now better understand the mechanisms by which CBD may effectively treat depression. Via The Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy:
“CBD promotes both a rapid and a sustained antidepressant effect in animal models. CBD has a complex pharmacology, with the ability to interact with multiple neurotransmitter systems involved in depression, including the serotonergic, glutamatergic, and endocannabinoid systems. Moreover, CBD induces cellular and molecular changes in brain regions related to depression neurobiology, such as increased Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels and synaptogenesis in the medial prefrontal cortex, as well as it increases neurogenesis in the hippocampus.”
That means that CBD may combat depression on multiple fronts:
- Interfaces with parts of the brain that produce important neurotransmitters (signaling molecules for the nervous system) as well as the ECS
- Changes brain chemistry at the molecular level in important brain regions associated with depression
- Increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. BDNF is a crucial signaling protein, the function of which is to protect existing brain cells and stimulate the growth of new brain cells. Depression patients consistently have lower BDNF expression than non-depressed patients, potentially pointing to CBD use to treat the condition.
- Increases new synapse growth (the point of contact between brain cells that they use to relay messages)
- Increases new brain cell (neuron) growth
The anecdotal experiences of real people buttress the clinical research findings regarding CBD’s efficacy in treating depression.
Millions of patients worldwide have used CBD and other natural remedies to treat depression using CBD. Polling shows that a third of Americans have used CBD therapeutically, and 45% of CBD users increased their consumption after COVID-19.
More and more primary care doctors and psychiatrists are turning to CBD, especially for patients with hard-to-treat depression (called “treatment-resistant” depression in the medical community).
CBD may be an excellent alternative to pharmaceutical antidepressants. Groundbreaking recent research has cast serious doubt on the fundamental mechanisms by which selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are purported to work.
Via Psychology Today:
“The study examines evidence from previous reviews and meta-analyses—in other words, it summarizes and combines evidence from all existing studies, including previous reviews. The results are surprising. The authors find ‘no consistent evidence of there being an association between serotonin and depression or that depression is caused by lowered serotonin activity or concentrations.'”
We now know that serotonin deficiency alone – which SSRIs are designed to target – does not trigger depression as previously believed. The importance of this work cannot be overstated. It will have a profound impact moving forward on how frontline healthcare providers understand depression’s root causes and, more importantly, how to treat it.
These findings potentially explain why, despite ever-increasing rates of SSRI prescriptions doled out to suffering patients each year, the rates of depression among Americans have consistently risen over time.
For more information about how CBD may be beneficial for individuals experiencing depression, check out our authoritative Georgia Hemp Company article on CBD for depression.
Other potential mental health applications for CBD
Aside from treating depression and anxiety, other promising mental health applications for CBD include:
- CBD for potentially treating mood disorders
- CBD for potentially treating bipolar disorder
- CBD for potentially treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- CBD for potentially treating epilepsy and other seizure disorders
Contact The Georgia Hemp Company to learn more
At The Georgia Hemp Company, we’re always excited to share our extensive knowledge regarding the benefits of CBD with our friends and neighbors interested in optimizing their health and well-being.
For authoritative information on the potential mental health benefits of CBD backed up by clinical research, reach out to us.