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Can You Use CBD for Stress? What the Science Says

Published May 08, 2024
Can You Use CBD for Stress? What the Science Says - Secret Nature

Stress is a natural biological response, and it has an undeniable place in the mechanisms of daily life. Many medical conditions are related to or worsened by stress, though, making it important to investigate new therapies that might help individuals properly manage their stress levels.

Recently, research into CBD has begun demonstrating that this non-intoxicating cousin to THC might offer impressive stress-reduction benefits. Many of the studies that have yielded these results began with inquiries into other topics, but the results remain clear: CBD should be investigated further for its potential ability to help with stress. Along the way, we’ll come to better understand the mechanisms that could potentially be behind the cannabinoid’s observed anti-stress effects.

CBD for Stress: Overview

1, Stress is a multifaceted response involved in countless medical conditions
Instead of attempting to eliminate stress, the proper approach is to manage it
2. Research indicates that CBD may be able to manage the stress response in various ways
3. It appears the cannabinoid interacts with 5HT1A, for instance, a stress-related neurotransmitter
4. Whether it’s stress caused by physiological pain or psychological stress, CBD may be able to help
5. In contrast with many stress treatments, the potential downsides of CBD are minimal

Most Recent Research on CBD and Stress

2022: The acute effects of cannabidiol on emotional processing and anxiety: a neurocognitive imaging study

Consisting of 24 healthy subjects, this study sought to determine how CBD affects the human response to stressful images of faces. This particular approach to determining if CBD helps with stress didn’t yield conclusive results, but it shows that interest in using CBD for stress continues to grow. It would be interesting to see this study replicated over a larger sample size, potentially with subjects who actually suffer from chronic stress instead of healthy individuals.

2022: Early-life stress induces emotional and molecular alterations in female mice that are partially reversed by cannabidiol

As the 2020s have gotten underway, research into CBD for stress has angled toward the cannabinoid’s potential ability to help with chronic symptoms that develop as a response to early-life stress. First noting a connection between early-life stress and depression and other conditions that particularly affect women, the researchers who conducted this study found that these conditions “were partially ameliorated by CBD administration.” These results suggest that, while CBD might not be able to entirely erase stress that runs decades deep, it can at least make old wounds easier to live with.

2021: Antidepressant-like effects of cannabidiol in a rat model of early-life stress with or without adolescent cocaine exposure

The facilitators of this study found that a tendency toward anxiety and depression caused by early-life cocaine exposure was mitigated by CBD treatment. Rats were administered cocaine, which caused anxiety and depression symptoms to set in during adulthood. At the end of the inquiry, the researchers found sufficient evidence to conclude that CBD caused “antidepressant- and anxiolytic-like effects in rats exposed to early-life stress.”

CBD for Stress Human Trials

2021: Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Plus Standard Care vs Standard Care Alone for the Treatment of Emotional Exhaustion and Burnout

This clinical study got a lot of attention during the pandemic as frontline workers sought new methods for relaxing that wouldn’t interfere with their jobs. Consisting of 120 frontline workers, the study involved scoring participants based on “emotional exhaustion,” a relatively loosely defined form of stress. In the end, the facilitators of this large clinical study found that “CBD may act as an effective agent for the reduction of emotional exhaustion and burnout symptoms among frontline health care professionals.”

2021: Reasons for cannabidiol use: a cross-sectional study of CBD users, focusing on self-perceived stress, anxiety, and sleep problems

When inquiring into the usefulness of CBD for any condition, it’s important to take into consideration how commonly people use CBD for that condition. This clinical study based on a sample of 387 CBD users found that 37% of individuals who use the cannabinoid rely on CBD for reduction of stress. A further 42% indicated they used CBD for either anxiety or sleep, showing that close to half of CBD users turn to the cannabinoid for help with some form of stress-related condition.

Additional CBD for Stress Studies

2020: CBD modulates DNA methylation in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of mice exposed to forced swim

If CBD does help with stress, why does it do so? This recent laboratory study might have the beginnings of the answer. According to this study, CBD might modulate “DNA methylation,” a process that is believed to be involved in the symptoms of stress and depression. Rats forced into stressful circumstances responded better when provided CBD than rats that were provided a placebo, and differences were noted in DNA methylation sufficient to suggest that “​​CBD regulates DNA methylation in brain regions relevant for depression neurobiology” and that “this mechanism could be related to CBD-induced antidepressant effects.”

2009: 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats

As one of the pioneering studies that first showed CBD has potential against stress, this early study found that CBD reduced the stress experienced by restrained rats. In short, the “anxiogenic response” to a restraint test was “attenuated by CBD.” These results suggested to the researchers that “CBD can attenuate acute autonomic responses to stress.”

Discussion: Should CBD Be Used for Stress?

There is considerable evidence that CBD may be quite useful in the management of stress. The potential downsides of using CBD for stress management are minimal, but both laboratory and clinical research show that CBD’s potential to reduce stress could be massive. Those seeking a tool for reducing stress that does not cause intoxication should look more closely at CBD: a fully non-intoxicating cannabinoid that nonetheless appears to have significant potential as a potent stress mitigator.

Sources

1. Bloomfield, M., Yamamori, Y., Hindocha, C., Jones, A., Yim, J. L., Walker, H. R., Statton, B., Wall, M. B., Lees, R., Howes, O., Curran, V. H., Roiser, J. P., & Freeman, T. P. (2022). The acute effects of cannabidiol on emotional processing and anxiety: a neurocognitive imaging study. Psychopharmacology, 239(5), 1539–1549. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-022-06070-3

2. Martín‐Sánchez, A., González-Pardo, H., Alegre-Zurano, L., Castro‐Zavala, A., López-Taboada, I., Valverde, O., & Conejo, N. M. (2022). Early-life stress induces emotional and molecular alterations in female mice that are partially reversed by cannabidiol. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 115, 110508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2021.110508

3. Bis‐Humbert, C., García‐Cabrerizo, R., & García‐Fuster, M. J. (2021). Antidepressant-like effects of cannabidiol in a rat model of early-life stress with or without adolescent cocaine exposure. Pharmacological Reports, 73(4), 1195–1202. https://doi.org/10.1007/s43440-021-00285-5

4. De Souza Crippa, J. A., Zuardi, A. W., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., De Lima Osório, F., Loureiro, S. R., Santos, R. G. D., Souza, J. D. S., Ushirohira, J. M., Pacheco, J. A., Ferreira, R., Costa, K. C. M., Scomparin, D. S., Scarante, F. F., Pires-Dos-Santos, I., Mechoulam, R., Kapczinski, F., Da Fonseca, B. a. L., Espósito, D. L. A., . . . Coutinho, B. M. (2021). Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol Plus Standard Care vs Standard Care Alone for the Treatment of Emotional Exhaustion and Burnout Among Frontline Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 4(8), e2120603. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.20603

5. Moltke, J., & Hindocha, C. (2021). Reasons for cannabidiol use: a cross-sectional study of CBD users, focusing on self-perceived stress, anxiety, and sleep problems. Journal of Cannabis Research, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00061-5

6. Sales, A. J., Guimarães, F. S., & Joca, S. R. L. (2020). CBD modulates DNA methylation in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of mice exposed to forced swim. Behavioural Brain Research, 388, 112627. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112627

7. Resstel, L. B. M., Tavares, R. F., Lisboa, S. F., Joca, S. R. L., De Aguiar Corrêa, F. M., & Guimarães, F. S. (2008). 5‐HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol‐induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. British Journal of Pharmacology, 156(1), 181–188. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2008.00046.x

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