Key takeaways.

  • Can CBD help stop or reduce panic attacks?

    In both clinical trials and pre-clinical studies, CBD is shown to effectively regulate the body's stress response and help it return to normal, pre-stressed states. This effect can help reduce the intensity and frequency of panic attacks. At least two clinical trials show that CBD can be as effective as benzodiazepines and SSRIs at reducing stress and anxiety, without drowsiness as a side effect.

  • Rebalancing brain and body chemistry:

    Our body's endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating the stress response. But when this system becomes imbalanced, your body is unable to recover from stressful events properly, which can manifest as anxiety and panic. One of the ways CBD has been shown to combat stress is by strengthening the endocannabinoid system, which in turn rebalances the stress response, returns the body to a pre-stressed state, and reduces anxiety and panic attacks.

    CBD might influence key brain chemicals like serotonin, glutamate, and GABA, promoting a calmer, cooler, and happier overall state while reducing anxiety and panic symptoms. By supporting healthy brain chemistry, CBD could help the brain adapt to and recover from stress.

    This article explores how CBD might interact with these mind and body systems to promote well-being and resilience to stress.

  • Promising early research, but more studies needed:

    While research on CBD for panic attacks is in its early stages, existing studies on anxiety disorders show promising results. More clinical trials are needed to fully understand CBD's effectiveness and optimal dosage for managing panic attacks.

    Below, we highlight some key clinical trials investigating CBD's efficacy in reducing stress and anxiety symptoms, offering a glimpse into the potential benefits for panic attacks as well.

There's growing interest in CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety and panic disorders. While research is ongoing, both pre-clinical (animal studies) and clinical trials (human studies) offer some intriguing clues on how CBD might be an extremely effective treatment option for alleviating panic syndrome, or even treating it altogether by addressing the root cause imbalances.

How CBD might ease anxiety and panic.

Imagine your brain as a bustling complex. In anxiety and panic, the "alarm system" becomes overactive, like a fire alarm constantly blaring, triggering a cascade of stress hormones that result in panic.

Here's where CBD might come in:

Modulating the Endocannabinoid System

Our body naturally produces endocannabinoids — molecules similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants — that interact with a network of receptors called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Arguably the most important system in the body, it plays a central role in regulating homeostasis, including emotions, mood, and the stress response, by maintaining the balance of bodily systems like the HPA axis and immune system.

More specifically, a strong and robust ECS helps to manage stress by:

  • Reducing the intensity of the stress response: Think of it like dimming a too-bright light.
  • Recovering from stress more quickly: The system helps the body return to a balanced state after stress subsides.
  • Adjusting to ongoing stress: With repeated stress, the body can learn to react less intensely.
  • Reducing anxiety, fear, and depression: The system directly combats these negative emotions triggered by stress.
  • Promoting healthy behaviors: It encourages activities like sleep and eating that might be neglected during stressful times.

In essence, the ECS promotes a sense of calm, composure, and well-being. Research shows that a well-functioning endocannabinoid system is even crucial for overall resilience to stress-related illnesses.

However, prolonged stress, aging, and genetics can lead to endocannabinoid deficiencies, leading to an abnormal stress response and manifesting as anxiety and panic syndromes.

Both pre-clinical and clinical trials suggest that CBD can significantly reduce an exaggerated stress response and help bring the body back to homeostasis by modulating these receptors, helping to make you resilient to stress and disease.

Restoring Vital Brain Chemistry

Your brain is an orchestra of chemicals, each playing its own role. In anxiety and depression, this orchestra is imbalanced and out of harmony.

Research shows that CBD influences the levels and activity of brain chemicals like serotonin, glutamate, GABA, and BDNF, which are involved in mood, anxiety, and cognitive function. It helps manage anxiety and panic syndrome by improving the way these chemical messengers communicate, leading to a calmer overall state.

  • Serotonin: Often called the "happy chemical," low serotonin levels are linked to depression and anxiety. CBD boosts serotonin signaling, contributing to a more positive mood.

  • Glutamate: This excitatory chemical plays a role in learning and memory; however, excessive glutamate activity can contribute to anxiety. CBD is shown to normalize glutamate levels and prevent its excess production, promoting a calmer state.

  • GABA: This inhibitory chemical acts as a calming influence. Research suggests CBD interacts with the GABA system, enhancing its ability to quiet down overactive brain activity.

  • BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor): This chemical is crucial for the growth and maintenance of brain cells. Studies suggest it might also play a role in fear extinction, the process of weakening negative emotional responses. CBD is shown to reverse stress-related declines in BDNF levels; this increase in BDNF facilitates the fear extinction process and enhances the brain's ability to adapt to and recover from stress.

Supporting Healthy Inflammation

Emerging research suggests that low-grade inflammation may be at the root cause of chronic anxiety by affecting brain function and altering neurotransmitter systems.

Both pre-clinical and clinical trials show that CBD's powerful anti-inflammatory properties could be another way it contributes to reduced anxiety.

Clinical studies on taking CBD to reduce panic attacks.

Unfortunately, there aren't many studies reviewing CBD for panic attacks specifically. However, there are many pre-clinical (animal) and clinical (human) studies on CBD for stress disorders like anxiety, depression, and burnout.

In 2022, a clinical trial demonstrated that taking daily CBD significantly lowered anxiety severity scores in 12 - 25-year-olds who previously failed to respond to therapy or medication, improving depressive symptoms and social functioning. By week 12, the participants' OASIS (Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale) scores decreased by 42.6%, highlighting CBD's potential as a safe and effective treatment option for treatment-resistant anxiety and panic disorders.

In a 1993 trial, when facing simulated public speaking, 300mg of CBD proved as effective as established anti-anxiety drugs (diazepam and ipsapirone) in reducing anxiety, with the added benefit of avoiding drowsiness (unlike diazepam).

CBD might not only ease anxiety caused by immediate stress, but also help regulate stress responses that have become abnormal.

A 2020 study investigated the effects of a high dose (600mg) of CBD on healthy volunteers who, despite no history of mental illness, were considered at high risk for developing psychosis based on a specific questionnaire. Interestingly, these volunteers showed a decrease, rather than an increase, in their cortisol levels (a stress hormone) when exposed to a stressful situation after taking CBD. This suggests that CBD treatment might normalize this abnormal stress response, while also reducing the anxiety associated with immediate stress, as measured by a standard anxiety test.

A 2019 double-blind study on teenagers (18 – 19 years old) with SAD and avoidant personality disorder showed that 300 mg/day CBD isolate for four weeks significantly decreased anxiety compared to placebo.

Another 2019 clinical trial found that 25 mg of CBD per day, either in the morning or after dinner, effectively reduced anxiety symptoms of patients with any anxiety disorder.

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