If you suffer from panic attacks, you may be stroking your chin at the notion of self-medicating with cannabidiol (CBD). Of course, being as dedicated to the scientific method as you are, you want to know whether it works, whether there are risks, and how to do it.
You have come to the right place.
Table of Contents
First, What Is CBD?Let’s start with that question because CBD is an often-misunderstood compound. Cannabis is a family of plants that includes both marijuana and hemp. These two plants are loaded with chemical compounds called cannabinoids — things like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD, and others. While you’ll find a good spread of cannabinoids in both plants, the marijuana plant is more THC-heavy, while the hemp plant has only trace amounts of THC (legally, less than 0.3% dry weight). What the hemp plant does have plenty of is CBD. CBD gets extracted from industrial hemp through several different methods involving solvents like butane, though rest assured that none of it ends up in high-quality CBD. Instead, what you’re left with is a chemical that’s natural, non-psychoactive, and a potential treatment for several different ailments.
Does CBD Treat Panic Attacks?At this point, research is underway with a vengeance. All we can say thus far is that the results are promising and that CBD may very well help fight panic attacks. Panic attacks are a common symptom of anxiety disorders, which affect nearly a third of people in the United States. CBD may help because it interacts directly with our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems. That’s right — you have a system that receives cannabinoids, and it comes factory-stock with your body. Specifically, CBD binds with the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, the cannabinoid type 1 receptor, and others that handle things like fear and anxiety in the brain. A 2015 review showed that CBD might be an effective treatment for several types of anxiety disorders, such as:
- Panic Disorder (PD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
What Are the Side Effects?Okay, so CBD is a promising potential treatment for anxiety and panic disorders. But what about the side effects? In that 2020 study we just mentioned, consider that side effects were reported among 9.9% of the study population. Those side effects included feeling sleepy and having vivid dreams. Only 0.8% of individuals in the study reported having worse symptoms than before treatment. Other reported side effects of CBD include diarrhea, dry mouth, reduced appetite, fatigue, and drowsiness. Note that these side effects are not common and are usually mild.
How Should I Take CBD for Panic Attacks?Like any medication or supplement, dosage is everything. Studies on CBD as a complementary therapy for anxiety disorders showed a vast range of dosages, from 6 mg to 400 mg per dose. Until more large-scale trials are completed to help understand exactly what dosages are appropriate, it’s best to follow a general rule of thumb: start small and work your way up gradually until you feel the effects. A 2019 study showed that dosages starting around 300 mg of CBD had a significant impact on calming anxiety among adult males. If you’re looking for the right way to take CBD, note there are pros and cons to the different methods. The quickest, simplest, and most efficient way to take CBD is with CBD oil drops. Simply place the recommended dosage under your tongue and hold it there for 60 seconds. This allows the cannabinoids to be absorbed into your bloodstream through the hypervascular area under the tongue. Other methods include:
- Cannabis flowers
- Sublingual spray