Can CBD help reduce or prevent suicide and suicide attempts?

There are rate differences, depending on specific demographic characteristics, when it comes to suicide and suicide attempts. 

Nonetheless, suicide occurs in all demographic groups, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and race.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), in the United States alone, there are 129 suicides per day on average (1).

Even kids attempt suicide. Based on the Youth Risk Behaviors Survey in 2017, 7.4% of young adults in grades 9-12 reported they attempted to commit suicide at least once in the past 12 months.

Suicide risk factors are characteristics of an individual or his or her environment that increase the likelihood of dying by suicide.

 The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) says these risk factors include: (2) 

  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Mental disorders, such as depression and mood disorders
  • Chronic disease and disability
  • Abuse or misuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Lack of access to behavioral health care
  • Social isolation

Going through trauma may increase a person’s suicide risk. For instance, there is evidence that childhood abuse and sexual trauma may increase a person’s suicide risk (3). 

Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that, while the link between suicide and mental disorders is well-established, the most influential risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt (4).

Suicide and Mental Disorders: How CBD Can Help 

Previous studies published in the journal Depression and Anxiety suggested a link between anxiety disorders and suicide attempts (5).

Meanwhile, CBD has been shown to possess therapeutic benefits that help reduce anxiety.

Results of a 2015 review conclusively demonstrated CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors linked to multiple disorders (6). 

These disorders include panic disorder (PD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The lead author of the study added that the results were supported by human experimental findings, which also suggested CBD’s minimal sedative effects and excellent safety profile.

Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another well-known compound of the cannabis plant, CBD (cannabidiol), is non-addictive and does not get users high, making it an appealing option for most people dealing with anxiety.

However, the results could not confirm that treatment with CBD would have comparable effects for those with chronic anxiety. 

Further tests are needed to determine the impact of prolonged CBD use on individuals. 

Some studies link suicide risk in those with PTSD to distressing trauma memories, anger, and poor control of impulses. 

Suicide risk is high for those with PTSD who cope with stress without expressing feelings, says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (7).

CBD, meanwhile, has been shown to be useful when dealing with PTSD and its symptoms.

A case report in The Permanente Journal noted the effectiveness of CBD oil for anxiety and insomnia as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (8). 

A 2018 study published in the Frontiers in Immunology Journal demonstrated that CBD might help reduce depression linked to stress (9).

A study published in CNS and Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets suggested that CBD possessed great psychiatric potential, including uses as an anxiolytic-like and an antidepressant-like compound (10).

Schizophrenia may cause or be associated with suicide, suicide attempts, or thoughts of suicide (11).

Interestingly, a case report on the use of CBD, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, showed that the daily administration of CBD to a patient with schizophrenia resulted in the improvement of acute psychotic symptoms (12). 

Another study on the antipsychotic effects of CBD on individuals who had Parkinson’s disease also showed improvement of psychotic symptoms (13).

More recently, researchers used CBD as an adjunctive medication in the treatment of acute psychosis in individuals who had schizophrenia or other non-affective psychotic disorders (14). 

The CBD group showed a more significant improvement of  psychotic symptoms throughout the treatment, as compared with the placebo group. 

A more extensive study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2018, however, found that CBD was useful in reducing psychotic symptoms (15).

CBD showed promise in helping improve difficult-to-treat adverse symptoms and cognitive impairment linked to schizophrenia.

Conclusion

Suicide is complicated and tragic. However, it is often preventable. Being aware of the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives.

Studies have shown a link between mental disorders and suicide. Meanwhile, CBD has been shown to help with mental disorders, making it a potential tool to help reduce, if not prevent, suicide attempts.

However, further tests are needed to determine the impact of prolonged CBD use on individuals. Also, more research is necessary to substantiate results from previous studies.

Thus, before using CBD or any cannabis products to help address symptoms linked to mental disorders, consult with a doctor experienced in cannabis use for advice.

Moreover, those in the United States may seek help from support groups and organizations, such as:


  1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide statistics. Retrieved from https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics.
  2. SPRC. Risk and Protective Factors. Retrieved from https://www.sprc.org/about-suicide/risk-protective-factors
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Suicide and PTSD. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/suicide_ptsd.asp.
  4. WHO. Suicide prevention. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/health-topics/suicide#tab=tab_2.
  5. Nepon J, Belik SL, Bolton J, Sareen J. The relationship between anxiety disorders and suicide attempts: findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(9):791–798. DOI:10.1002/da.20674.
  6. 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.
  7. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Suicide and PTSD. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/suicide_ptsd.asp.
  8. Shannon S, Opila-Lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4):16-005. DOI:10.7812/TPP/16-005.
  9. Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009. Published 2018 Sep 21. DOI:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009.
  10. de Mello A et al. “Antidepressant-Like and Anxiolytic-Like Effects of Cannabidiol: A Chemical Compound of Cannabis sativa”, CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets (2014) 13: 953. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871527313666140612114838.
  11. Mayo Clinic. (2020, Jan 7). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443.
  12. Zuardi AW, Morais SL, Guimaraes FS, Mechoulam R. Antipsychotic effect of cannabidiol. J Clin Psychiatry. 1995;56:485-486.
  13. Zuardi AW, Cripp JA, Hallak JE, et al. Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson disease. J Psychopharmacol. 2009;23:979-983.
  14. McGuire P, Robson P, Cubala WJ, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an adjunctive therapy in schizophrenia: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175;223-231.
  15. McGuire P, Robson P, Cubala WJ, et al. Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175(3):225–231. DOI:10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17030325.
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