anxious college student

The number of corner shops selling CBD-infused products has risen dramatically in recent years, with supporters touting health benefits like better sleep, pain management, and anxiety relief.

But what is CBD? Can it really help reduce anxiety symptoms?

CBD, or cannabidiol, products are extracted from cannabis or hemp plants containing chemical compounds called cannabinoids.

While the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is known to produce the psychoactive effects found in marijuana, CBD is not. People who take CBD supplements often report feeling relaxed due to the way the chemical reacts with their brain’s receptors.

Types of CBD-infused products include oils, pills, lotions, creams, sprays, edibles, and beverages. Research into the benefits and risks of CBD use still is in its infancy, and many of the purported perks are not yet fully backed by science.

If you’re considering trying a CBD supplement to help ease anxiety, here’s what to know.

Does CBD Treat Anxiety?

The full scope of CBD’s health effects is not yet known, but early scientific research and preclinical evidence supports the potential use of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.

Still, there is no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medication containing CBD that specifically treats anxiety, and many products are considered unregulated dietary supplements that may contain unknown ingredients.

There are also no standardized dosing guidelines for hemp-derived CBD at this time, making it hard to determine recommended dosage for certain health conditions, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The World Health Organization in 2017 said that CBD in its pure form “does not appear to have abuse potential.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against the use of vaping or e-cigarettes in any form, including to use CBD, as both are linked to acute lung injury and even death.

High levels of CBD can interfere with how your liver metabolizes drugs, such antidepressants and other prescription medications.

Talk to your doctor before trying any new alternative medicine. Treatment for mental health conditions should be guided by your health care professional, who may recommend a mix of therapy, medication, and homeopathic remedies.

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What Are the Effects of CBD?

People who take CBD supplements often report feeling relaxed or calm, and although these products shouldn’t contain THC that’s linked to feeling “high,” strong doses of CBD may make you feel lightheaded, or “blissful,” while the chemical enters your bloodstream. Side effects of CBD may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Changes in appetite.

Can I Buy CBD OTC?

The FDA has not approved any over-the-counter (OTC) drugs containing CBD, although companies like CVS and Walgreens offer some hemp-derived CBD products, such as lotions and creams, at select stores in a handful of states.

The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of hemp extracts such as CBD. Federal law bars hemp from containing more than 0.3% THC. Each state has set its own regulations on industrial hemp. In some states, you need a doctor’s permission to purchase both CBD and medical marijuana products.

In Pennsylvania, for example, you’re not legally permitted to buy marijuana-derived CBD oil without a medical marijuana card, but hemp-based CBD products are legally sold statewide.

To find a range of behavioral and mental health services at UPMC, including expert advice, visit our website.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.