For a few years now, CBD has become a much-talked-about compound and CBD products, such as CBD gummies, tinctures, topicals, and CBD oil, especially, seem to have found an honorable place on the market. CBD for medical use has become legal in some states in the United States as well as in some countries around the world, and there’s even an FDA-approved medication derived from CBD.
In addition to being used as a treatment for different medical conditions, CBD oil is also often recommended for people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks due to its anti-anxiety properties. In this day and age, panic attacks are very commonly experienced, and more and more people seek aid that could provide relief and reduce the symptoms.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of anxiety and panic attacks and how CBD oil could help reduce feelings of anxiety and lower the incidence of panic attacks, including how to use it.
What Are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are a result of prolonged anxiety. They are a common occurrence, especially among young adults, and even though they don’t last long, they can be very frightening.
Unlike anxiety attacks that are usually triggered by a specific situation, panic attacks are known to come on suddenly and unexpectedly as a feeling of intense fear, without being triggered by something. This causes further anxiety in the individual as they start expecting when the next panic attack will occur.
The symptoms of panic attacks can vary, but they come on suddenly and can be a combination of a few things:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain and tightness (some people might even think they’re having a heart attack)
- Heart palpitations and increased heart rate
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Fear of losing control
- Upset stomach
Panic attacks cause distress in the life of the individuals who experience them – their day-to-day life is affected and they often start worrying about their mental health. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, a common therapy for panic attacks and symptoms of anxiety in general is talk therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), combined with antidepressant medication.
However, many meds (such as Xanax) cause unpleasant side effects, and many individuals consider the use of CBD as a potential treatment without the side effects. Since the use of medical marijuana is growing, CBD oil seems very likely to be able to help with panic attacks.
What Is CBD Oil and How Does It Work?
CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the primary cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is most notable for being non-intoxicating, meaning that it doesn’t produce mind-altering effects like THC does. That’s why it’s a common choice among users who want the benefits of cannabis but without the high associated with it.
CBD oil can be extracted from all varieties of the marijuana plant, however, due to federal regulations, the industrial hemp plant (Cannabis sativa variety) is widely used because it naturally contains a larger percentage of CBD and very little THC.
CBD Modulates the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of receptors located throughout the body that play different roles in major bodily functions, including the production of some neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation.
CBD binds to the receptors of the endocannabinoid system and in this way modulates its response to different processes in the body. CBD indirectly influences the production of serotonin and dopamine, the former of which is essential for stabilizing the mood. CBD targets the serotonin receptors and modulates their function.
It also helps to stabilize an overactive amygdala, the structure in the brain that manages fear response. It does this by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter anandamide by binding to the CB1 receptors in the brain. Anandamide suppresses feelings of nausea and dizziness that are frequent during panic attacks.
However, during a panic attack, the production of a fatty acid called amide hydrolase (FAAH) increases, and this fatty acid degrades anandamide very quickly. What CBD does is it inhibits the production of FAAH and frees up space for anandamide, resulting in the regulation of the symptoms.
What Science Says About CBD and Anxiety
There has been a fair amount of research regarding the benefits of CBD for anxiety and panic attacks that paves the way for a more widespread use of this product.
For starters, a 2017 review of human and animal studies published in the journal Current Neuropharmacology investigated the anxiolytic properties of CBD in relation to panic disorder. They concluded that even though the exact mechanism of action is unclear, CBD “seems to be a promising drug for the treatment of PD”.
Similarly, a 2015 review of literature on the subject concluded that CBD has a major potential to be used as an effective treatment for a lot of disorders related to anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorder (PD).
A 2011 clinical trial published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology examined the effects of CBD on individuals who suffered from social anxiety disorder (SAD). The participants were given either a placebo or 600 mg of CBD, and by the end of the trial, the CBD group experienced an overall reduction of anxiety levels and lowered discomfort before a public speaking test.
There are also suggestions that CBD is much better tolerated than commonly prescribed antidepressants, like benzodiazepines. According to a 2020 systemic review, CBD is a good candidate for more detailed studies regarding its use as an anti-anxiety medication as it’s much better tolerated than the usual antidepressants and comes with a lower risk of side-effects.
How to Take CBD Oil for Panic Attacks
The dosing of CBD oil for panic attacks and anxiety is highly individual, but according to the studies done, a dose between 300 mg and 600 mg seems to work for most people. CBD is usually well-tolerated, but it’s always recommended you start small and see how your body reacts, then adjust the dose as needed. For better absorption, it’s best to take it sublingually, meaning you put the drops under your tongue, and after about 30 minutes you should start feeling the effects.
CBD Oil Safety and Side Effects
CBD oil doesn’t generally cause side effects, though you should be aware that it can interact with certain medications, like blood thinners, so you’ll need to consult with your doctor for extra caution. Even though no major adverse effects are experienced, sometimes, some people may experience fatigue, diarrhea, or changes in appetite. However, these side effects are more likely to happen at very large doses.
Bottom Line – Can CBD Oil Help Panic Attacks
Using CBD oil can certainly be beneficial for individuals who suffer from panic attacks. The thing with CBD oil is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know. However, if you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you buy the best CBD oil you can get your hands on as in this case high-quality products can be more effective. Make sure you buy from a trusted dispensary and a trusted manufacturer.
Additionally, it’s important to be mindful of the dosage. Even though CBD is well-tolerated, as we previously said, if you’ve never used a cannabis product before, you’ll still need to take it slow before your body gets used to it. And keep in mind, if CBD oil is not your cup of tea, there are always other options out there. To learn more, check out our post about the top CBD gummies for anxiety.
Soares VP, Campos AC. Evidences for the Anti-panic Actions of Cannabidiol. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2017;15(2):291-299. doi:10.2174/1570159×14666160509123955
Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1