By Emily Ledger
Every year, the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Week – an event that has been occurring annually for 21 years. To honour the importance of mental health awareness, we have decided to spend each day from the 10th of May to the 16th of May, looking at the evidence of how cannabis and CBD may help or hinder our mental health.
To kick off the week, we will be starting with one of the most common mental health problems in the UK – Anxiety.
We will be looking at the evidence – both clinical and anecdotal – to gain a better understanding of how CBD and cannabis are currently being used to help manage the symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety in the UK
Current data suggest that anxiety conditions may currently affect around 5% of people in the UK. Evidence shows that the prevalence of anxiety has been on the rise in recent years and has spiked since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Anxiety can affect everyone in different ways and can manifest itself in different situations. For example, Social Anxiety can relate to feelings of intense fear or dread at the idea of social situations or everyday experiences and activities.
Other symptoms may relate to low self-esteem, self-consciousness and panic attacks, among others. The disorder can affect people of all ages (though it is prominent in teenagers and young adults) and can impair normal life.
The Rising Popularity of CBD for Anxiety
The human relationship with cannabis dates back thousands of years and straddles industry, medicine, and recreation. The plant has been used traditionally for the medical treatment of a variety of ailments for much of this time.
However, modern processes now allow us to extract and isolate particular compounds from the plant for their specific properties – the most popular now being CBD.
The CBD industry in the UK has been on the rise over the last decade, with a significant proportion of users aiming to utilise the potential anti-anxiety properties of the cannabinoid. In fact, a recent survey found that almost half (42.9%) of respondents used CBD to improve their self-perceived anxiety.
How can CBD affect feelings of Anxiety?
With both anxiety and CBD use on the rise, a number of studies have aimed to understand the link between them. Scientific research has shown that CBD compounds can interact with both the human endocannabinoid and serotonin systems to affect and modulate a number of physiological and cognitive functions.
The relationship between CBD and Serotonin receptors is still not fully understood, however, studies have shown that it can cause an uptake in Serotonin levels. This is the main chemical responsible for the regulation of anxiety and reduction in depression.
CBD Products are seen by many as an accessible and safe way to manage milder cases of anxiety disorders, however, there is still a need for more research in this area.
Is there any Evidence?
Research into the effects of CBD has been underway by the World Health Organisation’s expert committee over the past few decades. Modern breakthroughs include a study in 2011, which assessed the effect of CBD on anxiety related to public speaking. The study found that both physiological reactions, and testimonies of the subjects, experienced a decrease in Anxiety-related symptoms.
In 2015 studies were conducted that indicated CBD could also treat disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. However, this study did caution that the long-term effects of CBD usage are still unknown.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2021
May 10th-16th represents Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK – an event dedicated to raising awareness and presenting “an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health.”
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week – ‘Nature’ – reflects on the importance of our connection to nature and how this can play an important role in our mental health. For more information, visit the Mental Health Foundation website.