A pilot study conducted by Orygen (Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health) and published in the Australian Journal of General Practice has indicated that cannabidiol significantly reduced symptoms of young people with extreme forms of anxiety that are unresponsive to other drug therapies. The Cannabidiol Youth Anxiety Pilot Study (CAPS) found that participants averaged a 42.6% reduction in anxiety symptoms following CBD treatment. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabis compound with a range of therapeutic uses, but it has gained recent research attention due to its anti-anxiolytic properties.
The study included 30 participants (aged 12-25 years) with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. One specific criterion was that the participants had not experienced improvement after five cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions that calendar year. Participants took 200 mg of cannabidiol per day for one week, and then the dose was increased to 400 mg. Participants who did not show significant improvement had their dosage increased at 200mg increments up to 800mg per day. All participants were offered biweekly CBT for the duration of the study.
The findings are promising for emerging cannabinoid treatments. Current treatments such as CBT and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant drugs are only effective for 50% of patients with debilitating anxiety. Their symptoms and drug treatment plans are further complicated if patients with anxiety also suffer from depression and substance abuse disorders. Participants reported less tension, less panic attacks, and reduced use of illicit drugs to self-medicate.
The researchers did not observe negative side effects such as suicidal thoughts, irritability or sleep problems that occasionally happen with SSRIs. The most common side effect was mild sedation or fatigue. Orygen Professor Dr. Paul Amminger explained the positive impact of CBD treatment on participants’ quality of life: “The young people had fewer panic attacks and could do things which they were previously unable to do like leave the house, go to school, participate in social situations, eat at restaurants, take public transport or attend appointments by themselves.” Current treatment for severe anxiety is limited, so these outcomes suggest CBD can help patients perform daily functions.