What happened when I took CBD for a week to help with my anxiety
Steven Phan: You gotta lean back. No, tongue back!
Benji Jones: That’s me, trying CBD at a shop in New York City. Lately, I’ve seen this stuff everywhere: At the local health food store, but also at Urban Outfitters, Sephora, and CBD shops like this one. And if you look at some of the branding, it kind of makes sense.
CBD products claim to help with everything from anxiety to insomnia to muscle pain. It almost sounds too good to be true. And maybe it is. To find out, I set up a little experiment. For one week, I took CBD three times a day, while tracking my anxiety with a scorecard. I also chatted with an expert before and after to sort through the results. Here’s what I learned.
CBD is a distant cousin of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. They both come from the cannabis plant, but CBD isn’t psychoactive. Meaning it doesn’t get you high. Now, of course, getting high isn’t the only reason why cannabis is popular. People also use it to relieve pain, control seizures, and lessen anxiety. But as researchers like Dr. Yasmin Hurd are discovering, it’s likely CBD, not THC, that’s behind these benefits.
Dr. Hurd: “It can activate some serotonin receptors, and the serotonin system is associated with alleviating anxiety.”
Jones: Hurd has been studying the effects of CBD for over 10 years. And she’s found that it can reduce anxiety in people with a history of heroin addiction. Now, fortunately, I don’t have a history of addiction, but I do see a therapist for chronic anxiety. And CBD could still help.
Dr. Hurd: “Both under normal conditions and in people who have anxiety disorders, enough research has started to show that it does have an anti-anxiety effect.”
Jones: So, back at the shop, I tried all kinds of product. From sweets to lotions and sprays. And while Hurd couldn’t recommend a specific dose for me, she did say that 300 milligrams a day should be enough to feel something. Because participants in clinical trials typically take anywhere from 300 to 600 milligrams. So, those chocolates and sprays? They weren’t going to cut it. Instead, I went for something else.
Phan: The tinctures, right? This is where you really get into the higher-strength things.”
Jones: I decided to err on the side of caution and take 250 milligrams each day, broken out into three doses: 50 milligrams in the morning, 100 milligrams at midday, and another 100 milligrams at night. That way, it wouldn’t hit me all at once.
Jones: All right, today is the day! I have my CBD here. I’m kind of nervous. All right, here we go.
Now, mind you, this was a Wednesday. A workday. Side note: The reason I’m taking CBD this way is that there are tons of capillaries under your tongue. So, anything you put there can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. Whereas when you ingest CBD, like with that chocolate, a lot of it is broken down by your stomach. Which means you probably won’t feel much.
Anyway, several hours later, I took my last dose of the day.
If anything, I just feel extremely tired.
That was the first thing I noticed: that CBD was making me drowsy. Really drowsy. Which Hurd said is a pretty normal side effect at high doses. Though we’re not exactly sure why. But as I discovered the next night, it’s also great for hangovers.
I had some alcohol, and I’m certainly not going to have trouble sleeping. I think I’m going to eat a slice of pizza.
The next morning, I felt…great. And according to Hurd, that’s because CBD also has some anti-inflammatory effects. But what about anxiety, what I was really in this for? Each morning, I filled out the anxiety scorecard that Hurd gave me. It was a rough estimate of my daily emotional state, based on numbered responses to statements like, “I feel at ease.” But day to day, it was harder to figure out whether CBD was helping.
Just walking home on Friday night after three days of CBD, and I’m reporting that I’m mostly just tired and feeling lethargic. Not in a bad way; it kind of feels like I have a warm blanket around me, so I don’t hate it.
But over the weekend, I finally got the relief I was looking for, even more quickly than I had expected.
So, I happened to take CBD right before I had to do something stressful. It’s Sunday, but I had a task that I was not looking forward to. And I took 100 milligrams, and I pretty quickly felt my nerves calming down. And I was like, OMG, this is totally working, which is really great because I’m looking for that quick relief like everyone is.
Now, of course, this could have been a placebo. I mean, all of this could have been placebo. So, a few days later, I tried it again in a similar high-stress situation.
Not going to lie, I actually feel a little bit more calm. It kind of puts me into a dissociative state, where I’m slowing down a little bit. I actually get physical pain in my heart region when I’m anxious, which I know sounds terrible. But just 30 minutes after taking my 100-milligram dose for the evening, I feel an absence of that. I will say that I’ve also been listening to the “Lion King” soundtrack, so there are confounding variables. But yeah, I feel a lot better right now.
At that point, I had just one day left.
All right, I’m about to take my last dose of CBD! I must say, I’m kind of excited to stop having to take this three times a day. I think part of it is scheduling and remembering. But also, yeah, I’ve also just been so much more tired. I don’t feel like my anxiety was just washed away. I felt like there were a few times where it really helped in certain instances. And, overall, kind of lowered the intensity of how I was feeling because I felt lethargic. But yeah, I don’t want to be tired anymore.
Afterward, I looked over my anxiety scorecards. And sure enough, it showed that I was feeling slightly less anxious on my last day, compared to my first. Especially when I looked at statements like this. Yeah, that’s a big one for me. I wanted to run these results by Hurd.
Dr. Hurd: “How do you feel?”
Jones: Um, to be honest, I don’t feel that different. I think that the biggest change that I noticed is…I was just tired all the time. I feel this kind of slo-mo lethargia that makes me feel, like, a little bit disassociated with reality. And I think that is what made me feel a little less anxious at times.
Dr. Hurd: So, perhaps…taking it at night only might be best because it can make you a bit sleepy, and everyone has a different sensitivity. If you take it at night you get past the initial sedative effects… and then you don’t have to worry about taking other things like caffeine to try to stay awake.
Jones: And what about those moments of instant relief? Was that in my head, or could CBD act that fast?
Dr. Hurd: “Yeah, absolutely. It can act that quickly. For us, in our studies, people did — shortly after getting CBD — report reduced anxiety.”
Jones: But if there was one takeaway from our conversations, it was this:
Dr. Yasmin Hurd: Ironically, even though it’s now this huge fad in our society, we still don’t have a very good handle on how it’s working.
Jones: In other words, we don’t know: what size dose you should take, how, exactly, it changes your brain, or how it impacts different people in different ways. That’s because until late 2018, nearly all CBD was classified as an illegal substance. Which made it really difficult for scientists to study. And while research is starting to catch up… in some ways, it’s too late.
Dr. Hurd: It’s one of the first times in history that the public is determining whether something is medicine, not scientists and physicians.
Jones: As for me, will I continue using CBD? Yes — but likely only for those moments when I need instant relief. Because, while it seems to benefit a lot of people … I’m not yet fully convinced. But also because, this bottle? It costs more than $130! And if I’m going to spend that much, I want to be absolutely sure it works.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on August 20, 2019.
Tackling Phobias: Face Your Fears With CBD Oil
If you struggle with a phobia, you are not alone. It is one of the most common forms of anxiety disorders, with an estimated 10 million people currently having a phobia in the UK. The condition does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, irrespective of their sex, age, or social background.
Phobias are more than a simple fear; they develop when people start to organise their lives around doing everything possible to avoid what they are afraid of, whether it’s a situation, an animal, object, or place. Medically, phobias are classed as a type of anxiety disorder. Those suffering from the condition come into contact with their phobia or even think about it, leading to severe anxiety and even panic attacks.
CBD has been used for some time now to help support those with their overall health, which can also include symptoms of anxiety. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a natural compound found in cannabis plants. It has no intoxicating effects and is generally considered safe to use. Even when you are trying to figure out the right dosage for supplementing treatment of your phobia, there is minimal risk of taking too much. Due to its reputation as a safe, natural supplement, CBD is legal to use in the UK and the most past, worldwide.
This article will explore the different types of phobias, how CBD may help interact with our bodies, and the potential CBD could have in supporting those battling the extreme fears often associated with anxiety disorders. So, let’s take a deep breath, and learn about how to face our fears with the help of CBD.
Types of Phobias
There is a variety of different types of phobias. The long list of fears can be divided into two main categories:
- Simple Phobias – These tend to be fears about specific animals, objects, situations or activities. Some common examples include:
- Enclosed spaces
- Complex Phobias – A complex phobia is often more disabling than simple phobias, as they are usually linked with a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about a particular situation or circumstance. The two most common examples of complex phobias are social phobia and agoraphobia.
Social phobias include a fear of social situations, such as going along to a party or performing in social situations, such as speaking during a meeting. People with social phobias have a dread of embarrassing themselves or of being humiliated in public.
Agoraphobia, however, is the fear of being in situations where an escape might be challenging, or help wouldn’t be accessible if something were to go wrong. For example, a person struggling with agoraphobia may be scared of visiting a shopping centre, travelling on public transport, and (in some severe cases) leaving home.
Whether someone is struggling with a simple or complex phobia will affect different people differently. Although still uncomfortable, some people will only react with mild anxiety when confronted with the object of their fear. In contrast, others experience severe anxiety or have a brutal panic attack, which can often lead to avoiding the cause of the fear in the first place. Most people with a phobia will be able to identify the cause, some more complex phobias may need diagnosing and questions answered by a medical professional.
Common Phobia Symptoms
No matter how insignificant a phobia may be to an outsider, for those experiencing it, incredibly complex phobias such as agoraphobia (a fear of public places and open spaces) can be incredibly distressing. Their phobia can limit normal daily activities and can even lead to depression and severe anxiety.
People with phobias will often try to do all they can to avoid contact with the thing or situation that triggers their fear and anxiety. The limits someone will go to avoid the source will vary considerably. Someone with the fear of rats (musophobia) may not want to touch a rat, whereas somebody else with the same anxiety may not even be able to look at a picture.
There are a variety of symptoms that coincide with phobias. Some are physical, others emotional. Panic attacks are one of the most common symptoms among people with phobias, and they can be very frightening and distressing for those experiencing them. The symptoms can often arise abruptly and without any warning, and can often be confused for a heart attack. With the overwhelming feelings of anxiety, a panic attack also can cause physical symptoms such as:
- Choking sensations
- Need to go to the toilet
- The sensation of butterflies in the stomach
- Chest pains or tightness in the chest
- Dry mouth
- Feeling confused or disoriented
- Feeling faint
- Headaches and dizziness
- Hot flushes or chills
- Numbness or pins and needles
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Ringing in the ears
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
In severe cases, people can also experience psychological symptoms when going through a phobia attack. These can include:
- Fear of dying
- Fear of fainting
- Fear of losing control
- Feelings of general dread
Complex phobias, like simple phobias, can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing. Agoraphobia commonly entails a combination of several intertwined phobias. For example, someone with a fear of being left alone (monophobia) or places where they feel trapped (claustrophobia) may also fear going outside or leaving their home.
The symptoms agoraphobics have to face with this condition differ from person to person and vary in severity. Some people may feel very nervous and fearful if they have to leave their home’s safety to do the shopping, while other agoraphobics may feel pretty relaxed, as long as they are only travelling a short distance from their home.
When someone has a social phobia, the thought of being seen out in public or attending a social event (even something as modest as a walk with a friend or chatting to a co-worker while on a break) may make them feel anxious and frightened. This vulnerability can be hugely debilitating. In some extreme cases, agoraphobics are unable to leave their homes due to the overwhelming fear; those with social phobias may avoid all forms of social interaction altogether. It can take some time to overcome a complex phobia, but with a bit of support from talking therapies and self-help techniques, it can get better.
What Causes Phobia
The research into what causes phobias has indicated that they usually develop during our childhood, teenage years, or early adulthood, often after a traumatic or stressful experience or situation. However, the sources of some phobias can be difficult to pinpoint, and it may not be clear why they have transpired.
The causes of simple phobias usually develop during early childhood, generally between the ages of four and eight. Simple phobias can occasionally be traced back to an early childhood experience. For example, if a child had a scary experience when swimming, they may fear water (aquaphobia) in their adult years. On the other hand, someone that shares a phobia with another family member may have been accidentally taught the phobia as a child. For instance, if a parent screams every time they see a spider, the child internalises the spider as a dangerous thing, and is more likely to fear them as an adult (arachnophobia).
It can be tough to pin down the exact cause of complex phobias, and the reason is often unknown. Some think it could be down to genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences which may all play a part in developing complex phobias.
The cause of social phobias is often brought on due to a previous anxious or intense experience in a social situation. It can be that their confidence for some people has never developed past the standard stage of shyness experienced as a young child. When this occurs, it can be very challenging for those with social phobias to form close relationships with other people.
CBD and a Holistic Approach to Managing Phobias
There have been many positive treatment results for phobias, and it has been found that almost all types can be cured. The type of treatment will differ depending on the person and their kind of phobia. Treating simple phobias typically involves gradually becoming exposed to the place, object, animal, or situation that causes the fear. This type of treatment is known as desensitisation or self-exposure therapy. Some people with simple phobias chose to try these methods using self-help techniques, professional support, or a mix of the two.
Treating complex phobias will generally take longer and involve talking therapies, such as counselling, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Whatever the type of phobia you’re battling, introducing a holistic approach to your treatment may provide some much-needed relief and a sense of control.
Some people with anxiety disorders such as phobias have been turning to cannabidiol (CBD). It has been reported to have the potential to support the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and overall wellbeing. CBD is thought to work by interacting with the body’s natural regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system (often referred to as ECS). There are endocannabinoid receptors almost everywhere in the body, notably forming part of the nervous system. Most of these receptors (known as CB1 and CB2 receptors) are located in the brain, but the receptors are also present in other areas such as the gut, bones, reproductive system, and immune cells.
The endocannabinoid system plays an essential role in helping the body stay within the narrow range of functional conditions. It also plays a part in vital functions such as memory, mood, stress, behaviour, sleep, appetite, pain, and immune function. The body naturally produces a chemical substance called endocannabinoids. These naturally-created cannabinoids bind to the endocannabinoid receptors and regulate core functions. The endocannabinoid system is partly responsible for keeping us healthy and happy.
Cannabis-focused scientists have found CBD oil may bind to our endocannabinoid receptors. Once attached, it may activate the endocannabinoid system to impact the regulatory responsibilities of our body. For example, taking CBD as a supplement alongside phobia treatment could help induce a sense of calm and relaxation. This may work when CBD binds to receptors in the brain, such as the serotonin (5HT)1a receptor. Serotonin deficiency is associated with phobia and other anxiety-related disorders. It’s possible the purported effects CBD has on mood and anxiety symptoms may be related to this interaction.
Understandably, the ways CBD may interact with the brain are very complicated, and there is more investigative work to be done. The evidence so far is suggesting that CBD might be a great addition to the treatment of phobias. While the research continues, it is safe to give CBD a try, as it has been found not to have adverse side effects, so it is generally thought to be safe to use.
Can You Use CBD Oil For Phobias?
There are several different ways to introduce CBD supplements to phobia treatment plans. The way CBD is administered will be down to personal preference, and even the phobia symptoms. Suppose someone experiences tense, painful muscles due to their body freezing up when encountering their phobia. In that case, a CBD topical application may be best, so it can be massaged onto the skin to potentially help relax the muscles. On the other hand, if someone experiences panic attacks before leaving their house, a CBD tincture or CBD vape product may be more suitable due to their sufficient bioavailability.
Bioavailability is something worth considering when choosing the most effective way to use CBD products for phobia symptoms. Bioavailability refers to how much, and at what rate, the CBD gets absorbed by the bloodstream. Having a basic understanding of the CBD product’s bioavailability will help users determine how much is needed, and in what form, to ensure the optimum dose ends up in the system. If bioavailability is not considered, the desired effects of CBD may not be felt, and not make any difference to the potential management of phobias. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the different ways to take CBD for phobias.
- CBD Tinctures – Those who are new to CBD will often think of ‘oil tinctures’ as being the leading product available on the market, and it is true: tinctures are the most common CBD product in the UK. CBD oil tinctures are intended to be applied sublingually (meaning under your tongue). The chosen dosage (measured in drops) is placed on the soft tissue below your tongue to use this form of CBD oil.
Advantages of CBD Oils and Tinctures:
- It’s convenient – To use it, you can quickly apply a dose of CBD to your tongue if and when you feel it is needed.
- They’re easy to use – You can simply drop your preferred dose of CBD oil into your mouth without any additional equipment required.
- They work pretty quickly – Sublingual CBD products tend to reach the bloodstream fairly promptly once administered.
- They are efficient – Almost none of the CBD is lost, as it does not have to pass through your digestive tract, unlike CBD in the case of CBD capsules and edibles. The CBD is absorbed directly into the bloodstream when taken sublingually.
- Range of flavour verity – Like most other forms of CBD oil, tinctures come in many different flavours, so it’s easy to find one that suits your taste.
- Available in a range of dosages – Due to CBD tinctures being so popular, most manufacturers offer them in a range of CBD concentrations. This can make it simpler to create tailored tincture usage to fit your needs and preferences.
Disadvantages of CBD Oils and Tinctures:
- Not the fastest – Although CBD tinctures work quickly, they are not the quickest form of CBD administration. CBD drops typically take between 10 to 15 minutes to reach the bloodstream. This is significantly slower than vaporised CBD, which may provide almost immediate effects.
- Inconvenient for public use – Some people who use CBD tinctures do not like to use the sublingual method in public. This is understandable, as it is not always the most subtle way to consume CBD.
- The natural taste and feel – Many do not enjoy the natural flavour or feel of sublingual CBD tinctures. If this is the case, there are many alternative forms of CBD, such as the options listed below.
- CBD Vape Oil – CBD vape oils are intended to be used with a vaporiser pen. They usually contain CBD along with additional ingredients such as propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin. There is also some CBD vape oil that contains artificial flavourings designed to provide a specific flavour. Unlike standard vaporisers, CBD vape oil often contains CBD as its key active ingredient instead of nicotine.
Advantages of CBD vapes:
- Exceptionally fast-acting – Due to the CBD in the vape oil being absorbed through the lungs, it reaches the bloodstream faster than any other CBD form. Some studies have found that the compounds inhaled by the lungs take as little as one or two minutes to absorb into the bloodstream.
- It is easy to use – If you are already familiar with using vape pens. There are also many different flavours out on the market, making the transition even more straightforward and enjoyable.
- More affordable – Overall, CBD vape oil is one of the most affordable and value-focused ways of consuming CBD. It is, however, essential to consider quality over a low price. If the cost of the product looks too good to be true, it generally is.
- Available in a range of dosages – Similar to CBD tinctures, CBD vape oils come in a variety of concentrations. It is best to start on a lower dose and increase as and when needed. This is especially prevalent when inhaling CBD vape oil as it can take effect quickly.
Disadvantages of CBD vapes:
- The addition of a vape pen – To use CBD vape oil, you will also need a vape pen. If you do not have a vape pen, do not want to buy one, or do not like vaping, an alternative form of CBD would be advisable.
- You can’t use them everywhere – As vaping is often restricted in public spaces in the UK, it can’t be used everywhere. This means if you are travelling on a train, for example, you will not be permitted to use a vape pen, even if it is part of your phobia management.
- CBD Capsules and Edibles – Using CBD in a capsule or edible form is a great way to get your dose of CBD discretely and conveniently, with a consistent dose every time. There is no need for a vape pen or awkward sublingual application. There are, however, with all CBD products, advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Oral CBD:
- They are easy to use – Compared to the other forms of CBD, capsules, in particular, are very easy to use. They can simply be swallowed with a glass of water.
- Don’t taste too earthy – If you are like many people who use CBD, the taste may not be your favourite flavour. When swallowing CBD capsules with water, they are almost flavourless, and if you opt for a CBD treat (such as a refreshing CBD mint), the taste tends to be a reward in itself.
- Easy to tweak CBD dosage – CBD capsules tend to contain a relatively low dose of CBD, which is perfect for beginners. It allows you to easily adjust the dosage by adding or removing or adding a capsule to your standard daily amount.
- Can be used anywhere – Unlike using a vape pen, which is banned in many public areas and public transport, or using a CBD oil tincture, which can be inconvenient at times, capsules and edibles are simple and easy to take in any location.
Disadvantages of Oral CBD:
- Often very slow-acting – CBD capsules and edibles are very slow to make their way into your bloodstream. This is due to oral forms of CBD needing to pass through the stomach and liver before it makes its way into the bloodstream. If a CBD capsule is used on a full stomach, it can take as long as an hour before having any noticeable potential effects. If possible relief for a phobia is needed quickly, CBD tinctures and vape oils, both of which are absorbed rapidly by your body, maybe a better option.
- Bioavailability – There are many advantages to oral CBD products, but bioavailability is not one. Edible CBD products and CBD capsules have relatively low bioavailability compared to other forms of CBD products. One study conducted into oral CBD products found that only 13 to 19% of the CBD consumed reaches the bloodstream. This percentage may seem low when you consider that CBD consumed in oils, tinctures, or vape pens reach the bloodstream at a much greater concentration and faster pace.
- Topical CBD – topical CBD CBD products designed to be used topically are used to administer CBD locally, via the skin. This is an ideal option for those who do not enjoy the taste of CBD oil or who struggle with swallowing capsules.
Advantages of Topical CBD:
- It’s easy to use – It is simple to apply an infused CBD lotion or balm to your skin. Most topical CBD products have a pleasant scent, meaning there won’t be any nasty odours for you to worry about after use.
- May have additional benefits – In addition to CBD’s potential benefits for the effects of phobias, including symptoms of anxiety and stress, it may help with symptoms of skin conditions that often flare up due to heightened emotions. For example, stress can aggravate eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and hives.
- Huge variety of products available – There are not just CBD infused lotions and balms available for topical CBD application. There are also CBD bath additives which are an excellent option for those who find baths a relaxing form of therapy for their phobias.
Disadvantages of Topical CBD:
- Bioavailability and absorption – Similar to oral CBD products, topical CBD applications are not the best at getting the optimal CBD into the system, as they are not absorbed into the bloodstream at all. So, if you are looking to absorb as much CBD as possible, this isn’t the best option.
- Using topical products can be inconvenient – If you do not use lotions and other topical products on a regular basis, it may take a bit of time to get used to rubbing in CBD lotions. Some people find it feels a little unnatural and inconvenient.
The type of phobia a person has will determine how severely it affects their everyday life. If the cause of the phobia is an object or animal that one does not come into contact with regularly, such as a snake, for example, it is unlikely to have a detrimental effect on their day-to-day life. If, however, it is a complex phobia such as agoraphobia, it can be challenging to lead a typical happy life. Sadly, for many who suffer from phobias, it is something they battle with everyday. However, there are some ways to help make the days more bearable.
There are many reports of people successfully using CBD oil to help ease symptoms of anxiety and promote a sense of calm. So, why not try it as a holistic approach to supplementing phobia treatment, and include one of these CBD application methods in your phobia self-help plan?
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD Oil.
Contributor | Angus Taylor CEO
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.