Is There Proof That CBD Helps With Anxiety and Stress?
Cannabis is becoming a more and more common method of treating depression, anxiety, and stress. In fact, coping with stress is one of the most common reasons cited by people who use cannabis.
A new study has been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders entitled, “A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect,” which examined changes in levels of depression, anxiety, and stress as a function of dose and concentration of Δ9tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
The study was supported by Washington State University's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program.
The results of the study suggest that medical cannabis products which are high in CBD can significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and stress better than those with low CBD. Also, the report concludes that the ongoing use of marijuana appears to exacerbate depression.
Let’s take a closer look at this study, but first, let’s look at exactly what negative affect means in the title of this study.
What Is Negative Effect?
According to a report in Psychology Today, Negative Affect Syndrome is “a state of psychological difficulty suffering characterized by the preponderance of negative moods and emotions that impair adaptive functioning and well-being.” It encompasses a range of negative emotions. High negative affectivity is characterized by anxiety, stress, and depression. While low negative affectivity is characterized by calmness and serenity, confidence, activeness, and enthusiasm.
People with high negative affectivity see themselves and their world in negative terms and exhibit higher levels of stress and anxiety.
Researchers used data from the Strainprint app. This app lets cannabis users track changes in symptoms as a function of different doses and strains of cannabis.
Before using the app to track medical cannabis use, individuals are asked to enter basic information such gender and date of birth. Next, they enter their medical conditions and symptoms of those conditions by selecting from a list of 279 conditions and 46 symptoms. They are then given the opportunity to enter information about their cannabis use by selecting from a list of products.
The figures for the percentage of THC and CBD content for each strain were obtained from lab tests on one of the products from one of Canada's licensed dealers, and are pre-populated in the app.
The Strainprint data was used specifically to examine these indicators:
Are symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress significantly reduced after using cannabis?
Are there are gender differences in these effects?
Do interactions between THC and CBD predict changes in symptom?
Do symptom changes varies according to dose?
Does the efficacy of cannabis change over time?
Do baseline symptoms of negative affect change over time?
In total, 11,953 tracked sessions were analyzed. These included 3,151 for depression, 5,085 for anxiety, and 3,717 for stress.
According to the report, on average, cannabis users perceived a 50 percent reduction in depression and a 58 percent reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use. Two puffs were sufficient to reduce ratings of depression and anxiety, while 10+ puffs produced the greatest perceived reductions in stress. High CBD (>9.5 percent)/low THC (<5.5 percent) cannabis was associated with the largest changes in depression ratings, while high CBD (>11 percent)/high THC (>26.5 percent) cannabis produced the largest perceived changes in stress.
The study’s authors claim that 89.3 percent of subjects reported a reduction in symptoms associated with depression while 3.2 percent reported worsening symptoms and 7.5 percent reported no change.
There was also a significant reduction in the ratings of anxiety with a reduction of symptoms in 93.5 percent of users, an increase in 2.1 percent of users, and no change in symptoms for 4.4 percent of app users.
A reduction in symptoms related to stress was reported by 93.3 percent of users, an increase was reported by 2.7 percent of users, and there was no change in reported levels of stress for four percent of sessions.
Researchers also examined whether percentages of THC and CBD content affected the results. The greatest reduction in depression was reported by people using low THC/high CBD cannabis. Symptoms of stress were also reduced the most with use of a high CBD product.
Conversely, there was no difference in symptoms with use of high THC/low CBD, low THC/high CBD, or low THC/low CBD cannabis.
The results of this study, according to its authors, indicate that use of low THC/high CBD products resulted in the greatest reductions in depression, while high THC/high CBD products corresponded to the lowest reductions in symptoms. Interestingly, however, varying levels of THC (high vs. low) had little effect on symptoms of depression and stress when CBD was low.
Both women and men perceived a significant reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress after inhaling cannabis. Women reported a significantly greater decrease in anxiety compared to men.
The authors of the study felt it was important to point out that the percentages are probably inflated because people whose symptoms get worse with cannabis use are less likely to continue using it.
The results of the study, however, seem to be consistent with the reported anxiolytic, stress-alleviating effects of cannabis.
These results strongly suggest that CBD is an important component of medical cannabis and that users should seek out cannabis with CBD levels of 10 percent or higher.