BY RUTH HILL R.N.
With prolonged mandated house confinement anxiety is becoming an unwelcomed friend. You feel it when you try to sleep when you wake up in the morning and during the day when you worry how to feed your children with no income. Your two-year old is running around the house oblivious to the reason he cannot go outside. You follow the lesson plans for your 6-year-old but after 55 days of no job unable to go out and earn money the anxiety clings to you like a wet blanket. What do you do?
Thankfully, your endocannabinoid system (ECS) works as a buffer to ensure your organisms do not develop some kind of illness as a result. It also plays a crucial role in regulating fear, anxiety and how we cope with stress. You normally handle the external stressors of pollution, poor sleep, that argument with your boss, but the 24/7 news reports about the millions of people dying worldwide from the coronavirus tips your ECS into overdrive. You cannot make enough of your natural anandamide the chemical in your brain that mimics 9delta-tetrahydrocannabinoid (THC) and 2-AG the chemical mimicking cannabidiol (CBD).
High prolonged stress eventually impairs your ECS and downregulates CB1 receptor signaling in brain regions involved in emotional processing resulting in increased levels of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), the enzyme that breaks anandamide down in the body. This results in lower concentrations of the feel-good endocannabinoids. In simple terms the more anandamide deficient you are the more anxious you become.
Pharmaceutical companies are researching synthetic drugs that inhibit FAAH to slow the degrading of anandamide in your system. Thus, boosting CB1 signaling could be a potential therapeutic target for both protecting against and treating anxiety disorders – a theory explored in a preclinical study on mice with low anandamide levels caused by stress-induced anxiety. Researchers observed how FAAH inhibitor synthetic drugs given to animals can reverse anxious behaviors.
Campos, AC et al. (2013) and Elmes MW et al. (2015) observed giving CBD, the non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, to mice can inhibit anandamide reuptake and delay its metabolism by FAAH. Studies also confirm that CBD enhances CB1 signaling, in turn promoting the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus, which scientists believe further contributes towards the compound’s ability to relieve anxiety. In one study, administering CBD to rats submitted to 60 minutes of enforced restraint not only lowered their heart rate and mean arterial pressure, but also reduced anxiety levels.
An open-label and nonrandomized study by Scott Shannon, MD (2019) in The Permanente Journal showed CBD to be better tolerated than routine psychiatric medications and displayed promise as a tool for reducing anxiety in clinical populations. “Seventy-two psychiatric patients with anxiety or sleep disorders were given between 25-175mg of CBD a day, alongside existing psychiatric medications. After two months of treatment, 78.1% of patients reported feeling less anxious and 56.1% experienced improved sleep.”
Mary Biles in a May 06, 2020 issue of Project CBD, an online website reporting on cannabis research, tells us “a number of clinical trials to study the effectiveness of CBD for anxiety are in the process of recruiting, including one using 25mg of full spectrum CBD soft gel capsules over a period of twelve weeks; and a phase II clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of CBD for social anxiety, which will also measure changes in endocannabinoid levels. And a Harvard Medical School research project will compare whole-plant and single-extract CBD solutions for anxiety.” Contact: Annick Metcalf, M.SC at firstname.lastname@example.org Or if you want to enter into other clinical trials on cannabis go to https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/results/NCT03549819
In the meantime, it would not hurt to ingest a low dose of CBD from your local dispensary during these stressful times. Do not let anyone tell you there is not enough research on medical cannabis. The PubMed.org site has thousands of published papers demonstrating the effectiveness of this miraculous plant.
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