The following is intended for readers 18+
Many people who have mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression turn to cannabis as a source of relief from their psychiatric illnesses. Cannabis comes in many forms or strains, and because of the ease of access, people have traditionally smoked marijuana containing the controversial psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical gets you “high,” which helps some find relief from anxiety and depression.
But for those with mental health issues, smoking marijuana and eating THC marijuana edibles are not always the best way to find relief from symptoms. At times, smoking or taking an edible may even exacerbate symptoms. That’s one of the reasons CBD oil, which doesn’t contain unwanted psychoactive substances, is gaining recognition.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD hemp oil is made from high-CBD, low-THC hemp, unlike medical marijuana products, which are usually made from plants with high concentrations of THC. Because hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, these hemp oil products are non-psychoactive. This means they do not change the state of mind of the person who uses them. However, CBD oil does appear to produce significant changes in the body and has been found to have medical benefits.
Since cannabis use, and specifically the use of CBD, hasn’t been studied extensively, here are answers to common questions.
What Forms Does It Come In?
Most people access CBD in its oil format. Much like its THC-laden counterpart, some CBD oil can be smoked or vaporized. For patients who might not want to inhale, however, it’s more commonly found in a variety of other forms including oral droppers, sprays, topical treatments, and massage oils.
How Does CBD Oil Work?
All cannabinoids, including CBD, attach themselves to receptors in the body to produce their effects. The human body produces certain cannabinoids on its own and has two receptors for cannabinoids — CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are found all around the body, but many are in the brain. The receptors in the brain deal with: coordination, movement, pain, emotions and mood, thinking, appetite, and memories, among others. THC also attaches to these receptors.
CB2 receptors are more common in the immune system. They affect inflammation and pain. It used to be thought that CBD acts on these CB2 receptors, but it’s now thought that CBD does not act on either receptor directly. Instead, it seems to influence the body to use more of its own cannabinoids.
Is CBD Oil Legal?
In the 29 states where medical marijuana is legal, CBD products are covered by those same legal protections. Additionally, 16 states have passed CBD-only laws, which legalize the possession and use of CBD products for specific qualifying conditions — but not cannabis products containing higher levels of THC. Those CBD-only laws often limit the legal possession and use of CBD products to children with epilepsy, and some nerve and muscle afflictions.
Will CBD Oil Improve My Mental Health?
“Right now, there’s not enough conclusive effort to say either way,” said Rachel O’Neill, a licensed professional clinical counselor for Talkspace based on Youngstown, Ohio. “The short answer is: it might be. Some researchers have suggested that CBD can help decrease symptoms of psychosis, like seeing things that aren’t there and hearing voices. Researchers have also identified the potential of CBD oil to decrease symptoms of anxiety and to potentially assist in the treatment of substance use disorders.”
Although the use of CBD oil holds potential promise for those with mental health issues, additional research is needed to determine appropriate doses for effective treatment.
How Do I Know How Much to Use?
“This one is tricky,” O’Neill said. “CBD oil is not FDA-approved, which means there are no federal regulations that govern the production of the substance. As such there are no universally accepted guidelines on what is an appropriate dosage or what form of delivery (e.g. topical, oral) is most appropriate.”
“Lastly, and perhaps most concerning,” O’Neill continued, “there are no standardized formulations for CBD oil, which means that there is no guarantee that what you’re purchasing is actually CBD oil. Those interested in beginning CBD oil treatment should consider speaking with a medical specialist or other trusted source to determine appropriate dosing.”
Final Thoughts and Advice
If you’re thinking of using CBD oil to help treat your mental health issues, O’Neill has the following advice:
- It’s always a good rule of thumb to consult your medical provider before beginning any medical treatment, including over-the-counter supplements.
- Be aware that because CBD is not federally regulated, it’s possible that the dosage that you’ve been promised isn’t accurate.
- Be aware of legality in your state specific to use.
Although there is potential promise for those with mental health issues in the use of CBD oil, there are risks. Above all, we need more research to determine the best dosage for effective treatment.