By Emily Ledger
The use of the cannabis derivative, CBD, has been significantly on the rise in recent years due to a number of potential health and wellness benefits. The cannabinoid has become one of the most popular food supplements on the market and has been touted as an aid for a number of health and wellness complaints such as stress, anxiety, and problems with sleep.
While there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that supports the use of CBD for these purposes, there remains little clinical or high-quality research in this area. In order to better understand patterns of the usage, dosing, and perceived effects of CBD, researchers recently conducted an online survey of 387 past or current CBD users.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most common of the over 100 cannabinoids produced by Cannabis Sativa. L. Unlike Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-intoxicating, meaning that it does not cause a ‘high’ that is often associated with cannabis. However, both anecdotal and clinical research has shown that the compound has significant health and wellness potential.
As well as being used as an over-the-counter supplement, CBD is also used in licensed pharmaceuticals such as Epidyolex – a CBD-based medicine that is used to treat some forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy. Current evidence suggests that CBD may be an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant as well as potentially reducing levels of stress and anxiety and improving sleep.
As CBD is non-intoxicating and has been deemed safe for consumption, the phytocannabinoid has been used as a wellness ingredient in a wide range of products such as tinctures and capsules, edibles and drinks, and cosmetics.
The CBD User Survey
In order to further understand the use of CBD, an anonymous online survey was developed by researchers and hosted on Survey Monkey Inc. The survey was distributed to CBD users in the UK through a collaboration various CBD brands and retailers. A total of 387 respondents reported using CBD themselves and were included in the results.
The survey consisted of 20 questions which covered patterns and methods of CBD consumption, reasons for use, and perceived effects as well as demographic questions.
Results of the Survey
The majority of respondents were female (61.2%); aged mostly between 25 and 54 years (72.2%); and were based in the UK (77.4%).
According to the data, most users take CBD sublingually (under the tongue) and had been using CBD products for 3-6 months. Many respondents reported that CBD could help to improve sleep problems, stress and anxiety, and be used for general health and wellbeing. Those using CBD for self-reported anxiety and for sleep improvement were associated with sublingual use.
A total of 42.6% of respondents backed the use of CBD for self-perceived anxiety, followed by 37.5% for stress, 37% for sleep improvement, and 37% for general health and wellbeing. 42.5% of respondents reported that they used CBD for sleep issues – either to improve sleep or for self-perceived insomnia.
Respondents aged between 18 and 34 were more likely to use CBD for general health and wellbeing (47.7%) than those aged 35-54 (33.9%) and those aged over 55 (31.9%). Male respondents were more likely to use CBD for general health and wellbeing and for sore muscles post-workout whereas females were more likely to use CBD for self-perceived anxiety and insomnia.
Out of 163 people who responded to the question “how does CBD affect your anxiety levels?”, 141 (86.5%) reported that they felt less anxious. A further 21 (12.8%), reported “no difference (I still suffer from the same degree of anxiety)”. Furthermore, 96/163 (58.9% of respondents reported that they thought less about their problems when they were supposed to be relaxing in comparison to before they started using CBD.
Over a third (37.5%) of respondents endorsed the use of CBD for self-perceived stress. In response to the question “how does CBD affect your stress level?”, almost all (130/141; 92.2%) participants reported that they felt less stressed.
Self-perceived sleep problems
The questionnaire included a number of detailed questions in relation to sleep quality which were answered by 125 (32.3%) participants who reported using CBD to improve sleep and 95 (24.5%) participants who reported self-perceived insomnia. Of participants who used CBD to help with sleep problems, 48.2% said that CBD led them to fall asleep first.
Other reported benefits and side effects
When asked to report any other effects of CBD, the researchers received 960 responses – the most common effect being calm (21.3%) followed by decreased pain (19.5%). However, 9.3% reported that they did not feel any benefits from the use of CBD.
Furthermore, 9.9% of male respondents reported experiencing sexual enhancement, in comparison to 2.9% of female respondents. Participants aged 55 (23.1%) and over and those aged 35-54 years old (16.8%) also reported taking less of their medications.
In regards to the side effects experienced by CBD users, a total of 388 responses were recorded, 277 (71%) of which were logged as not experiencing any side effects. Dry mouth was the most commonly reported side effect (11%), followed by fatigue (3%).
More than half of CBD users who participated in this survey were using a daily dose below 50mg sublingually. A majority of respondents reported daily use, sometimes taking multiple doses per day. The researchers found that respondents who use CBD for self-perceived anxiety and stress were more likely to use it several times per day, whereas those using CBD for sleep were more likely to use CBD only in the evening.
While most users reported taking doses of less than 100mg of CBD per day, 16.8% of respondents did report using more than 100mg per day. A further 10.2% of users claimed that they did not know how much CBD they were using.
These findings may cause some concern as the current FSA recommendations are not to exceed 70mg of CBD per day. The researchers conclude that this data “stresses the importance of better public information and communication and improved packaging and guidance from brands to consumers.”
The findings of this survey show that CBD products are used for a wide range of physical and mental health symptoms as well as doe general health hand wellbeing. The majority of respondents reported that CBD had helped with their symptoms which are associated with conditions and problems which constitute some of society’s biggest health concerns. The researchers conclude that further research is needed into whether CBD may be helpful in safely and efficiently treating these symptoms.