The Truth about Cannabinoids and Anxiety

By Zero Point

Many Americans are asking themselves “What can I do about my anxiety disorder?” Many are also looking for ways to treat anxiety without the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals such as benzodiazepines. More and more of us are adding cannabidiol to our daily regimen to help manage anxiety. This article summarizes some facts about cannabinoids and anxiety and answers some of the most common questions about cannabinoids and anxiety.

Here are some common questions about cannabinoids and anxiety:

  • Will taking CBD Oil for anxiety make me high?
  • Do cannabinoids cause anxiety?
  • Do cannabinoids help with anxiety?
  • Can CBD aggravate anxiety?
  • Does full-spectrum CBD make a difference in anxiety?

Anxiety seems to be at an all-time high.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, over 40 million Americans have an anxiety disorder. These can range from everyday stress and worry to Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder.

Will taking CBD Oil for anxiety make me high?

No. Cannabidiol is not psychoactive, so while it will activate the endocannabinoid system, it will not make you feel high.

Do cannabinoids cause anxiety?

Scientists have studied cannabinoids and anxiety since at least 1976.  Generally speaking, studies have shown that THC in cannabis has an “anxiogenic” effect, i.e., it can increase anxiety—especially in higher doses and among those who consume it very infrequently.  In contrast, cannabidiol or CBD has shown the opposite “anxiolytic” effect, in that it reduces anxiety. This suggests that lower THC and higher CBD would be a preferred treatment. However, the data somewhat inconsistent, in that many users report a preference for THC to control the affective symptoms of their anxiety, (view article on National Library of Medicine).

Do cannabinoids help with anxiety?

In general, low doses of THC appear to lessen anxiety, while high doses seem to exacerbate it.  In human studies, 300-600 mg of CBD consistently reduce acute anxiety symptoms, though longer-terms studies are needed to show the effect of daily dosing. 

The endocannabinoid system in the human body plays an important role in fear and anxiety responses within the human brain. It acts as a buffer to help regulate these emotions. Cannabinoids bind with our receptors and activates this system. In particular, CBD seems to help with anxiety by affecting levels oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that help regulate mood, sleep, digestion, and behavior.

Can CBD aggravate anxiety?

Currently, studies suggest that is not very likely, particularly when the product used is CBD isolate. 

    Does full-spectrum CBD make a difference in anxiety?

    Full-spectrum CBD is a whole extract that contains cannabidiol, terpenes, and a trace of amount of THC (<0.3%).  Many studies have demonstrated that terpenes have their own anti-anxiety properties, and so may help to reduce anxiety. Nevertheless, for those who are sensitive to THC, even the small amount of THC (while not enough to get them high) may still exacerbate anxiety rather than sooth it. In that case, a broad spectrum product which still has both the terpenes and the CBD but NOT the THC may be a better option.


    In general, the studies are positive about the beneficial effects of cannabinoids and anxiety.  While higher doses of THC may exacerbate anxiety, CBD consistently demonstrates only anti-anxiety effects.  Longer-term studies are needed to determine the effects of taking CBD everyday to help manage anxiety symptoms. As always, consult your physician and/or psychopharmacologist before making any changes or additions to your anxiety regimen. 

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