There are three main points to consider when discussing the use of cannabinoids to treat anxiety.
- Anxiety is a human problem that will continue to persist.
- Cannabinoids effectively treat anxiety.
- Cannabinoids are less toxic than other substances regularly used to treat anxiety.
1. Anxiety—It’s going nowhere
America’s National Institute of Mental Health claims that at least 18.1 percent of the U.S. adult population has anxiety issues. Whether anxiety is more common in recent times than it was in the past is subject for debate. It is also debatable if the medical and health care industries have improved on diagnoses and treatment of the disorder.
Early humans needed anxiety in order to survive. The part of the brain called the amygdala is responsible for anxiety sensations. The same region of the brain is responsible for the fight and flight reflex of the sympathetic nervous system.
Because humans once spent more time as hunter-gatherers, we needed anxiety to continuously activate the fight or flight reflex. A daily life filled with human predators and only basic weapons and tools was exponentially more dangerous than life as we know it. The amygdala was therefore always active and played a key role in keeping humans mentally alert.
In modern times, challenges faced by humans are not as intense as they were a century or more ago. In fact, the challenges faced in modern times could be rightly described as being abstract. For one to survive, one only needs food and shelter. However, these can only be gotten when one works and earns money. Even if the basic requirements for survival are met, humans, it seems, are never quite satisfied.
As Maslow’s hierarchy of needs proposes, the needs of humans will always continue to rise. Such needs may include self-actualization and socializing. When one fails to achieve these goals, feelings of anxiety are induced–the same as that which is induced when one fails to find a place to rest his head at night.
2. Cannabinoids re-regulate
Studies have shown that cannabinoids play an essential role in controlling anxiety disorders.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds derived from cannabis that work with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is through this system that they exert their effects on the human body. The ECS is present in all mammals and is involved in the regulation of a number of body functions, including the nervous system responses. By regulating these functions, it helps to maintain the body’s homeostasis.
With regard to anxiety, cannabinoids directly target the amygdala and thus work to minimize the fight or flight reflex. Cannabidiol (CBD) binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala, which are responsible for flooding the body with anxious feelings, and the stressful feelings are alleviated.
3. Cannabinoids are a less toxic, viable alternative
Other substances can perform the same feat as CBD. However, most of these substances have side effects which may be injurious to the health. CBD, on the other hand, functions without exerting the negative effects associated with other substances. Full spectrum, hemp-derived CBD contains .3% or less THC, and it therefore not psychoactive.
Alcohol is one substance that has similar effects on the amygdala as cannabinoids and is commonly used to counter anxiety and stress. Nevertheless, alcohol has a myriad of negative health effects, the most common being its addictive potential. On the other hand, CBD is not addictive; neither is it associated with any bodily harm as is the case with alcohol.
CBD is less toxic than other substances consumed in today’s society. The therapeutic index is used as a yardstick to compare the toxicity of a substance to its therapeutic potential. The therapeutic index of alcohol is 10:1. What this means is that the dose of alcohol needed for positive effects is a tenth of that required to induce death. Cannabinoids have not been associated with death incidences. The most serious side effect may be intense drowsiness. Surprisingly, water is even more toxic to the body that cannabinoids.
Medications prescribed to treat anxiety also have many negative side effects and very definite therapeutic indices.
Compared to all other substances used to regulate anxiety, cannabinoids are the most natural, the safest and the most effective. Our nervous system is designed to take advantage of the regulating properties of cannabinoids. Why would this natural, therapeutic agent not be the number one go-to for a disorder that afflicts a fifth of our population?
It is imperative that we educate ourselves as well as the general public on the benefits of cannabinoids. We live in a world that requires therapeutic solutions and treatments for countless diseases and disorders. We can continue to use drugs that have terrible side effects and that create user dependency, or we can promote a natural alternative that is more aligned with our body’s natural systems. The time to further explore the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids is past due.
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