Can CBD Help With Panic Attacks, and if So, How?
- Panic attacks occur when an individual experiences a sudden and intense fear for no apparent cause or real danger. Some panic attacks happen only once or twice in a lifetime. However, recurring episodes could indicate an underlying anxiety or panic disorder(1).
- Benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are usually prescribed for their favorable side effect profiles as treatments for panic attacks and panic or anxiety disorders(2).
- Cannabidiol (CBD)’s potential to reduce anxiety may help with panic disorders(3) A review that analyzed several studies on animal and human subjects revealed that CBD exhibited anti-panic properties in clinical trials(4).
- CBD engages with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which maintains biological balance in the body(5). Researchers found that CBD activates several receptors to bring about its anti-anxiety and anti-panic effects(6).
- Despite the positive outlook for CBD, there is still a lack of data from human clinical studies to prove its effectiveness in treating panic disorder. People taking certain medications could be at risk of experiencing the side effects of drug interactions when consuming CBD.
Why People are Turning to CBD for Panic Attacks
A panic attack is characterized by a sudden, intense fear even when there is no apparent cause. It can trigger severe physical reactions in an individual, such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, muscle tension, trembling, and shortness of breath(7).
Most individuals have one or two panic attacks throughout their life, with the problem going away when a stressful situation ends. People who have recurrent episodes and are in constant fear may have a condition known as panic disorder(8).
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, panic disorders affect six million adults in the United States(9). Panic disorder is one of the five major types of anxiety disorders(10).
Treating panic disorder usually involves a combination of psychological and pharmacological interventions. Benzodiazepines (BDZs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically utilized due to their more favorable adverse effect profiles over other treatments(11).
In 2014, a new class of drugs known as azapirones was examined for panic disorder. Experts believe that this new medication causes less drowsiness and physical impairment than BDZs(12).
Azapirones are considered anxiolytic because of their ability to reduce anxiety, which is prevalent in panic attacks. Hydroxyzine, a partial serotonin agonist, has also gained recent popularity as an alternative.
CBD’s potential to help with panic disorder may be attributed to its anti-anxiety effects(13). CBD is a non-psychoactive compound obtained from the Cannabis sativa plant.
A 2015 study published by the journal Neurotherapeutics presented evidence supporting CBD as a potential treatment for neuropsychiatric conditions, such as panic disorder(14).
The authors of the study assessed several results from clinical trials concerning the potential benefits of CBD as a treatment for anxiety.
In the animal model studies, they learned that systemically administered CBD reduced rapid heart rate and blood pressure. The researchers also reported a decrease in the anxiety-causing effects of stress in the subjects(15).
By the end of the review, the authors concluded that CBD could be a possible treatment for anxiety disorders based on its potential anti-anxiety and anti-panic (panicolytic) actions.
In 2017, another study that reviewed the anti-panic capability of cannabidiol was published in the journal Current Neuropharmacology.
The reviewers analyzed both experimental animal and human studies on the presumed panicolytic properties of CBD(16).
In the human trials, one study showed that a 300 mg dose of CBD lowered anxiety in healthy volunteers. The results were assessed after the subjects took a simulated public speaking test.
In another trial, patients with social anxiety disorders were observed to have higher anxiety levels, cognitive impairment, and increased alertness during a speech performance.
After receiving 600 mg of CBD, the subjects were found to be significantly less anxious(17).
The study noted that the lab results from these clinical trials had encouraged new approaches in studying the potential effects of CBD on panic disorder.
In the animal model studies, an acute administration of CBD reduced the expression of panic-related behaviors in mice. This anti-panic effect was again seen in CBD-administered rats when their escape response was noticeably reduced in an elevated maze trial.
These findings in both human and animal studies support the concept that cannabidiol exhibits anti-panic properties.
By the end of the review, the authors concluded that CBD presents a better alternative to the first-line treatment for panic disorder. They found that the compound does not induce dependence and tolerance upon consumption.
They also emphasized that more clinical trials on panic disorder patients are needed to fully demonstrate CBD’s effectiveness in treating this condition(18).
How CBD Oil Works to Help with Panic Attacks
Cannabidiol is thought to interact with a part of the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a unique system that is believed to maintain homeostasis or biological balance in response to changes in the environment(19).
Physiological functions, such as mood, cognition, and chronic pain perception, are some aspects that are regulated by the ECS. Experts believe that it is able to modulate these functions because of its numerous receptors(20).
CBD has been suggested to activate 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in several regions of the brain(21). This specific type of receptor is said to contribute to the mechanism of action of anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs(22).
Besides serotonin, CBD is also believed to engage other chemical structures, like the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors of the ECS(23). Both receptors have been linked to the strong involvement of the ECS in neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly with anxiety and depression(24).
These findings have led researchers to hypothesize that the anti-panic effects of CBD may be a result of its interaction with various receptors in the body(25).
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Panic Attacks
- CBD could be used to alleviate the symptoms of panic attacks. Several studies have shown that CBD has properties that can reduce rapid heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety.
- Cannabidiol reportedly interacts with various receptors in the body, such as the serotonin and cannabinoid receptors. Both of these chemical structures have been associated with anxiety, which is a common trait of panic disorder.
- CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis plants. It does not cause a “high” upon consumption, unlike its counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- Purchasing and consuming cannabidiol is allowed in most places in the United States, such as in Colorado. In areas where CBD is legally sold, people can get CBD products even without a prescription from a physician.
- According to a study, CBD does not alter psychomotor and psychological functions upon intake. Even high doses reaching as much as 1,500 mg of CBD per day have been reported to be well-tolerated in humans(26).
- Although some studies on CBD use and panic attacks were conducted on humans, many assumptions have been based on animal models. More clinical trials on human subjects are necessary to assess the efficacy of CBD in treating panic disorder.
- There are no CBD products approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for alleviating panic disorder symptoms. The only accepted CBD product is Epidiolex, a medication prescribed to treat seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy(27).
- People taking certain medications may be at risk of experiencing drug interactions when consuming CBD. Cannabidiol may alter the way a drug works, leading to adverse reactions(28).
- Currently, CBD is prone to inaccurate labeling, particularly for products sold online and in some dispensaries(29) Buying CBD through these channels puts users at risk of consuming more or less of the compound than expected.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Panic Attacks
There are various self-help measures and therapies that could be useful in anxiety issues, such as panic disorder. These alternative therapies may be applied alone or in conjunction with other conventional treatments.
Chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm are herbal therapies that could help with anxiety-related disorders(30).
A preliminary study of chamomile in humans revealed that the plant has anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties(31).
Lavender is also believed to have anxiolytic effects that could benefit people with panic disorder. As an essential oil, it is often used in aromatherapy, which may exert psychological effects beneficial to people with anxiety(32).
Meanwhile, preliminary research data on lemon balm has shown that it could reduce some of the symptoms of anxiety(33).
There are CBD brands nowadays that are selling CBD products infused with these herbs.
Cannabidiol and chamomile are often found in teas, which users can drink for relaxation. The combination is also available as tinctures and is advertised to help with sleep.
Chamomile is known as a mild sedative to calm nerves and help with sleep problems(34), while CBD was shown to improve sleep in subjects during a clinical trial(35).
CBD and lavender are usually sold together as drops that users can apply sublingually or under the tongue. There are also CBD rubs containing lavender that are said to help soothe discomfort.
CBD and lemon balm are available as gummies, teas, tinctures, and ointments. The infusion is advertised to promote calmness and alleviate anxiety.
How to Choose the Best CBD Oil for Panic Attacks
Currently, three forms of CBD are available: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.
The most popular among them is full-spectrum CBD. This variant has all of the natural compounds present in Cannabis sativa plants.
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains chemical compounds, such as terpenes, flavonoids, and even THC. Quality full-spectrum hemp extract has a high cannabidiol content and only small amounts of the other compounds.
CBD oil that contains all of the chemical compounds of cannabis is known for its “entourage effect.” CO2 extraction is one way to obtain full-spectrum CBD.
The next type of CBD is known as broad-spectrum. This CBD variant contains almost the same phytocannabinoids as that of full-spectrum but without the THC.
Some people choose broad-spectrum CBD over full-spectrum because they do not wish to consume the psychoactive THC compound.
CBD isolate is the third type of cannabidiol product and is usually sold in crystalline or powdered form. A cannabidiol isolate is the purest type of CBD in the market.
During the extraction process of CBD isolates, all of the other compounds are removed, leaving only pure CBD.
Whichever type of CBD one chooses, buyers must purchase only the best quality product available to maximize CBD’s health benefits.
Choose only the best CBD oil for panic attacks by following these tips:
- Look for the certificate of analysis (COA) or the third-party lab report of the CBD product selected. This document is especially important since it indicates that the item has undergone thorough lab testing and contains precisely the specifications listed on its label.
- Read up on product and shop reviews if buying from an online store. If purchasing from a physical dispensary, check if it has proper authorization to sell CBD.
- Buy only CBD derived from organic hemp. The hemp plant is the most reliable source of high-quality cannabidiol.
- Ensure that the legalities involving CBD are followed in the state where it is going to be bought and used.
- Consult a health care professional, preferably someone experienced in medical cannabis, before deciding to use CBD for the symptoms of panic disorder.
Additional Tips to Get the Best CBD Oil Products
- Avoid buying from CBD companies that claim to sell cannabidiol derived from the seeds and stalks of hemp plants. The reason for this is simple: non-GMO industrial hemp stalks have very little CBD, while its seeds do not have cannabidiol.
- It is vital that interested buyers first assess the quality of CBD edibles, such as gummies, before purchasing. Be wary of brands that sell CBD snacks that contain sub-standard or artificial ingredients.
- Feel free to contact CBD brands for inquiries or questions regarding their products. It is best to choose another CBD company if they fail to respond appropriately.
CBD Dosage for Panic Attacks
There is no approved CBD product for treating panic attacks. Therefore, users do not have an official guide that can help them know the proper dosage for panic disorder.
However, some individuals rely on several factors that they believe can help determine the right dose of CBD. The two most commonly cited are the body weight of the user and the amount of CBD available in each product.
Information from past clinical trials may also provide people with an idea of a suitable dosing range fit for human consumption.
In a report published by the World Health Organization in 2017, the agency mentioned that they analyzed a study where human subjects were given as much as 600 mg of CBD. They found that despite this high dose in their treatment, the participants did not have any adverse reactions after(36).
The report also noted that CBD has a generally favorable safety profile.
An even higher dose of CBD intake has been recorded with no harmful side effects observed. Chronic use of CBD oil, reaching as high as 1,500 mg per day, is likewise reported to be safe for humans(37).
How to Take CBD Oil for Panic Attacks
A straightforward approach to consuming CBD oil for panic attacks is to take the compound in the form of edibles or capsules. Popular edibles, such as CBD gummies, brownies, and tablets, are great for beginners due to how easy they are to take.
CBD tinctures or drops allow users to apply CBD oil under the tongue. Applying CBD in this manner is a suitable method for those who want to control their CBD dosage.
These CBD tinctures have droppers that make it very easy to measure the right amount of cannabidiol one needs to take.
CBD topicals could also be beneficial for people with panic disorders since these products can be applied in massage therapies for relaxation. Many CBD companies sell CBD products as salves, balms, lotions, and creams.
Meanwhile, some users may choose to inhale CBD through flavored or unflavored vaping products. However, people who are suffering from lung disorders may not be ideal candidates for CBD vapes, as these may worsen their conditions(38).
Seek medical advice from a physician before deciding to purchase any product made with cannabidiol.
Getting help from a doctor who is experienced with cannabis use is highly recommended.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotional response characterized by worried thoughts, tension, and physical changes, such as increased blood pressure.
It is normal to feel anxious sometimes. However, anxiety that does not go away, especially when it starts to affect day-to-day life, could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illness in the United States and are said to affect about 40 million adults or 18.1% of the population yearly(39).
The following are the most common signs of anxiety:
- Feeling tense, restless, or nervous
- Having a sense of impending danger
- Experiencing an increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing or hyperventilating
- Feeling tired or weak
- Having trouble thinking or concentrating on anything
- Having problems sleeping
- Finding it difficult to control worry
- Feeling the urge to avoid situations that could trigger anxiety
Many factors can cause anxiety disorders, such as genetics, ongoing stress, physical health concerns, or traumatic events(40).
It is essential to consult a doctor concerning anxiety symptoms. Medical experts can diagnose anxiety disorders and help people manage their anxiety problems.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Several types of anxiety disorders exist today. These are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related problems.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People who have generalized anxiety disorders are known to be excessively worrisome. These individuals usually worry about social interactions, work, personal health, and day-to-day life circumstances.
GAD symptoms typically include:
- The feeling of being on-edge all the time
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Being easily fatigued
- Experiencing muscle tension
- Problems with sleep, such as difficulty in staying or falling asleep
Individuals with panic disorder experience repeated panic attacks. An attack can happen without warning or can be triggered by situations involving fear.
A person having a panic attack may experience:
- Shaking or trembling
- Accelerated heart rate or heart palpitations
- Feelings of impending danger
- Sensations of smothering, choking, or shortness of breath
- Feelings of having no control
People who have panic disorder often worry when the next panic attack may happen. They try to prevent future panic attacks by avoiding situations, places, or behaviors associated with the experience.
A phobia is the feeling of an intense fear of specific situations or objects. Although it is reasonable to feel anxious in some scenarios, the kind of fear that people with phobias have is unrealistic.
A person with a phobia may:
- Excessively worry about encountering the feared situation or object
- Actively take steps to avoid what they fear
- Feel sudden and intense anxiousness upon encountering the feared situation or object
Phobia-related disorders also have their subtypes.
Specific phobias, or simply called phobias, is when a person fears a particular type of object or situation. Some examples of specific phobias include the fear of heights, blood, flying, injections, and insects.
Patients with social anxiety disorders are those with a generally intense fear or anxiety toward social interactions. They worry that behaviors or actions linked with their condition are negatively looked upon by other people, which leads to embarrassment.
A person who has agoraphobia has an intense fear of two or more of these situations:
- Being in open spaces
- Using public transportation
- Standing in a crowd
- Being alone outside of their home
- Being in enclosed spaces
Those with agoraphobia usually avoid these scenarios, partly because they believe it might be difficult for them to leave in case they have panic-like reactions.
Conventional Treatments and Therapies for Anxiety Disorders
Patients with anxiety disorders are generally recommended to undergo psychotherapy, take prescribed medications, or both(41).
There are several methods believed to alleviate anxiety, which is why people should work with their medical provider to select the proper treatments for their needs.
CBD at this early stage may be considered a useful adjunct, or additional, treatment method in addition to already established, safe, and readily available treatments. Always talk to your healthcare provider first before taking CBD for any reason or if you are concerned about your mood.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is said to help people deal with their anxiety disorders. This approach teaches individuals to think, behave, and react to anxiety-producing situations and objects differently.
Two subtypes of CBT are exposure therapy and cognitive therapy. These two are used alone or in combination to treat social anxiety disorder.
Exposure therapy aims to help individuals confront their underlying fears so they can resume activities that they have been avoiding. The goal of cognitive therapy is to identify, challenge, and remove unhelpful thoughts of anxiety disorders.
CBT could potentially be done in groups with other patients or individually. Doctors often assign “homework” for participants to accomplish between their sessions.
Anxiolytic medications reduce anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, or feelings of extreme fear in a person. Benzodiazepines are the most common anti-anxiety drugs.
Using benzodiazepines, however, have both advantages and disadvantages.
One of the advantages it offers is its effectiveness in relieving anxiety while taking effect faster than antidepressant medications. Its disadvantage, however, is that users become dependent, requiring them to take higher doses to achieve the same result.
Doctors try to avoid such problems by prescribing benzodiazepines to patients for only a short time. This practice is particularly helpful for those who have a history of substance abuse or can quickly become dependent on medications.
A person who suddenly stops taking benzodiazepines may experience withdrawal symptoms, a return of anxiety, or even death. These risks are why medical professionals tell patients to slowly and safely decrease dosage when deciding to stop taking the drug.
Although primarily used for treating depression, antidepressants may also help with anxiety disorders. This type of medication could change the way the brain uses certain chemicals that control stress or mood.
However, a person may have to try several antidepressant drugs to find the one that can improve their symptoms the most. Medications that have been helpful for a close family member in the past are usually considered.
For those who have already started taking antidepressants, do not stop unless advised by a doctor. Abruptly stopping the use of antidepressants can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most common first-line treatments used for anxiety. Tricyclic antidepressants are the less commonly-used drugs to treat anxiety disorders.
Doctors may also consider the use of beta-blockers to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and trembling. These prescription medications may help individuals keep their symptoms under control.
Joining Support Groups for Anxiety Disorders
People suffering from anxiety disorders may benefit from support groups where they can share their problems and achievements with others who have similar conditions.
The following are the perceived advantages of joining anxiety support groups:
- Showing to others that they are not alone
- Helping people with anxiety disorders develop new social skills
- Allowing participants to open up and talk about their situation
- Sharing new strategies to cope with their condition
- Strengthening resolve to stick with a prescribed treatment plan
- Sharing practical advice and skills
Participants in these support groups often form bonds based on the commonality of their daily experiences. People learn from one another, obtain relief, have fun, and are inspired by each other’s journey.
It is not uncommon to see people who have already recovered from their disorder but are still attending these support groups to help others.
Online chat rooms could also prove to be useful. However, any advice obtained from the web should be considered carefully.
It is always important for users to check with a doctor before following online recommendations.
A panic attack is a situation where a person experiences sudden and intense fear even if there is no real danger nearby. Most people experience panic attacks once or twice in their lifetime.
Individuals who continuously have episodes of panic attacks and are always fearful may have a condition known as panic disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America stated that six million adults in the United States are affected by panic disorder.
The conventional treatment for panic disorder usually involves a combination of psychological and pharmacological interventions. Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, as well as CBT, are considered first-line treatments for alleviating the symptoms of this mental health disorder.
Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, could be a potential treatment for panic attacks due to its supposed effects in decreasing anxiety. CBD, unlike THC, is a non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis plants.
Several studies have shown that cannabidiol is capable of reducing the symptoms associated with panic attacks. Clinical trials on both animal and human studies provide evidence that CBD exhibits anti-panic properties.
CBD is believed to interact with a system known as the endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is said to maintain the biological balance in the body when responding to environmental changes.
Taking cannabidiol has been suggested to activate specific receptors in the brain and body to bring about its supposed anti-anxiety and anti-panic effects.
CBD comes in three forms and undergoes a unique extraction method.
Although CBD use may appear to be a better alternative than standard medications, there is still a lack of knowledge about its overall efficacy in treating panic disorder in humans. The FDA has also not approved any CBD product as a form of treatment for panic attacks.
Before deciding to take CBD hemp oil, users should first seek medical advice from a doctor to avoid complications.
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