CAN CANNABIS REPLACE BENZODIAZEPINES AS AN ANTI-ANXIETY DRUG?
The prohibition policies on cannabis start to collapse in many areas of the world and pot is entering the medical practices to which it belonged before falling victim to denigratory campaigns.
The modalities of interaction between cannabinoids and human body are finally becoming more understandable thanks to the recent increase in scientific research on the subject. Perhaps the most interesting discovery so far is the interaction between the two active components THC and CBD, and their mediation by the receptors in the human endogenous cannabinoid system. Or simply the discovery of the endocannabinoid system.
Cannabis is now available as a medicine in some regions of the world, where it can be obtained with a medical prescription. It is in fact prescribed for numerous medical conditions, among them chronic pain. But also the anxiety is a condition that can potentially be improved by cannabis. Now the question is this : Can cannabis actually be compared with traditional medications for the treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety? Let's see how cannabis behaves in comparison to one of the most common classes of anxiety drugs, benzodiazepines.
The ANXIETY IN SUMMARY
Anxiety is a generic term that encompasses several mental disorders capable of provoking feelings of fear, concern and nervousness. Anxiety can often be a normal human experience, especially when a major life event approaches, such as exams, meetings and job interviews.
The apparent importance of these situations causes some of us to be lost in their own thoughts, wondering how it might go, or worrying about any negative results. However, other types of anxiety are more serious and persistent, and may lead some individuals to seek medical care with the hope of finding a drug to relieve the heaviest symptoms. There are numerous different manifestations of anxiety-related disorders. Below we list the most common.
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic type of anxiety that can generate an irrational state of concern for everyday events, such as economic, health or work problems. Another kind of anxiety is panic disorder. This disturbance can cause the sudden onset of great terror, causing confusion, dizziness and nausea.
SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER
The social anxiety disorder is characterized by the persistent fear of being judged by others. This usually involves the fear that one's own behavior in social situations will cause shame or embarrassment. Symptoms of the social anxiety disorder include tachycardia, dizziness and headaches, muscle tension, mental confusion and even stomach pains and nausea.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder accompanied by confused and repetitive thoughts, which lead the patient to carry out compulsive actions. The causes of the disorder are associated with family history, different brain functions, traumatic events, and particular personality traits.
Benzodiazepines commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders include e.g. Xanax, Librium, Valium, and Ativan. Benzodiazepines are a large class of drugs and maintain similarities between them as far as the mechanism of action in our central nervous system is concerned. But they are different in terms of their power and the duration of the effects. These drugs have a sedative effect and work by binding themselves to the GABA-A receptors in the brain. This culminates in the blocking of the mechanisms of excitation of the neuronal system, which results in the classical anxiolytic effects of this type of drugs.
It is interesting to note that benzodiazepines are classified as substances in Table 4 in the United States. Cannabis is instead inserted in Table 1 of the substances that cause addiction, and without potential medical potential. From this bizarre classification it would thus be that the "bences" are more secure than cannabis, while the exact opposite is true.
Benzodiazepines are in fact linked to a large amount of deaths derived from overdoses. Many argue that these drugs are too easily prescribed by doctors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 over 22,000 people are death from overdoses caused by medication. It is said that a total of 31% percent of such deaths were associated with benzodiazepines prescribed for various conditions, including anxiety.
In 2008, about 5.2% percent of U.S. adults used benzodiazepines. The use of these drugs is widespread, and it is possible to develop both physical, and psychological addictions to these drugs. These addictions can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures.
Side effects from high doses of benzodiazepines can manifest themselves in drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, language instability, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, and in some cases even coma. Chronic abuse of these drugs leads to insomnia, anorexia, headaches, weakness and even anxiety, that is, the same condition that the drug is prescribed.
So it seems totally correct to assert that this class of drugs is very dangerous and possesses a high potential for abuse. Instead, we examine how cannabis can serve as a safer and more natural remedy than these drugs.
CANNABIS IS VERY SAFE
Cannabis is a very safe substance, which has never caused any death from overdoses when it was used alone. Its classification in Table 1 decided by the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) puts it next to the most dangerous drugs in the world, pointing to a high potential for abuse and no proven medicinal value.
The decision to put cannabis in this group of substances comes from intentionally distorted information by major economic interests, as well as by ignorance and scientific illiteracy. ** A search titled "Comparative risk assessment of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other illicit drugs using the margin exposure approach" has instead shown how secure cannabis is.
The study looked at the toxicity of substances such as alcohol, cannabis, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, nicotine and amphetamines. Among all these substances, cannabis was considered to be the only low-risk substance. In addition to this, the study has shown that cannabis is 114 times less dangerous than alcohol.
ANXIOLYTIC EFFECTS OF CANNABIS
One of the reasons cannabis is prescribed in some US dispensaries stems from its ability to treat anxiety conditions, such as the already mentioned post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). It's easy to see how cannabis is able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, considering its famous relaxing power.
A study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry documents the anxiolytic effects of cannabis. 50 male subjects who smoked regularly and compared with 50 other subjects who did not smoke and served as a control group were observed. It has been observed that participants who have regularly smoked cannabis in life have obtained lower anxiety scores than those in the control group.
Researchers sought to explore possible interactions between cannabis and benzodiazepine receptors in mice and thus found that cannabis generates significant anti-anxiety effects, effectively binding to the same neuronal receptors addressed by benzodiazepines. The authors of this research therefore concluded that the anti-anxiety effect of cannabis is mediated by the central benzodiazepine receptors."
CBD AND ANXIETY
Cannabis sativa strains produce large phytocomplexes of chemicals, including a special class known as cannabinoids. These substances are found in the resin produced by small glands on the surface of cannabis leaves and its flowers, known as trichocomas. One of the The most common cannabinoids is CBD, which has become increasingly famous for its numerous potential medical applications. One of these applications is anxiety.
Research entitled 'Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug' examined other studies on the role of CBD as anxiolytic. CBD has been found to have anti-anxiolytic effects in several studies on both human and animal subjects. The paper's authors state that "new clinical trials involving patients with different anxiety disorders are indispensable, particularly with panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, social anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder" and that "an appropriate picture of the therapeutic effects of CBD with the exact mechanisms involved in its anxiolytic action have yet to be fully understood."
CBD AGAINST SOCIAL ANXIETY
CBD can play a role in the treatment of specific forms of anxiety. A paper published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology reports tests of the effects of CBD social anxiety. Individuals with social anxiety disorders who had never received this type of treatment were given 600 mg of CBD or a placebo before participating in a simulated "public speaking" test. Results showed that CBD was able to significantly reduce anxiety, cognitive dysfunction and discomfort in public speaking. CBD has also greatly reduced nervousness in their early discourse.