Medical Research

Is CBD Safe and Effective to Use for Anxiety?

Written by Loren Devito, PhD

A closer look at the evidence and what to look out for

It seems as though people are taking CBD these days for a multitude of reasons – sleep, pain, and so many more. It’s easy to understand how this “non-psychoactive” cannabinoid has become so popular. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce the typical “high” associated with cannabis use. So, people can integrate CBD into their daily lives, as it won’t affect their ability to complete tasks.

A quick search across the Internet shows that a large majority of people take CBD for anxiety. That’s no surprise. Heaps of research have looked into the anxiolytic effects of CBD and found consistently strong effects. From animal models through human studies, CBD is a proven go-to for putting the mind at ease.

But with all this positive press for CBD comes an important disclaimer. While cannabis use has never resulted in death, it is a bioactive substance that has a significant impact on the body and brain. Therefore, its use should not be taken lightly. So, let’s take a more serious look at the research and further evaluate both the benefits and potential side effects of CBD that should be considered for its use as an anxiolytic.

Anxiety is an umbrella term that encompasses generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder,social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dozens of pre-clinical studies in animal models have shown a beneficial effect of CBD treatment on anxiety-like behaviors, including stress, fear, and compulsive behaviors.1

Most therapies that are approved to treat anxiety target serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain.2 Andit seems as though CBD may increase or modulate serotonin release, thus explaining its anxiolytic effects.1

Studies in humans have also shown a beneficial effect of CBD on generalized social anxiety disorder and public speaking.3,4Infact, CBD may also be effective in treating pediatric anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.5

So, let’s say that you are encouraged by these results and decide to try CBD out. And it works really well for you. But then, you start to experience some unusual results.

While CBD has been shown to be generally safe and well tolerated, just like any other bioactive substance, it can produce side effects. Based on results from clinical trials of CBD for different conditions, side effects may include drowsiness, decreased appetite, sedation, dizziness, and dry mouth.6-8 In addition, CBD can interact with some medications that you may be taking for other reasons.9It’s important to note that the effects of CBD greatly depend on the dosage taken and the way your body processes bioactive substances; the doses used in clinical trials are much higher than what is usually available commercially.

Those with a medical marijuana card should talk to their dispensary about potential side effects of the products they use. However, those who do not have a card should talk to their doctor. While it may be difficult to broach the topic of CBD, it’s important to discuss any substances you take with a healthcare professional.


  1. Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J., Marmar, C.R., “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders”, NeuroTherapeutics, 2015, Volume 12.
  2. Patel, D.R., Feucht, C., Brown, K., Ramsay, J.,Pharmacological Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents: A Review for Practitioners”, Transl Pediatr, 2018, Volume 7.
  3. Crippa, J.A., et al., “Neural Basis of Anxiolytic Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder: A Preliminary Report”, J Psychopharmacol, 2011, Volume 25.
  4. Bergamaschi, M.M., et al., “Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients”,Neuropsychopharmacology, 2011, Volume 36.
  5. Shannon, S., Opila-Lehman, J., “Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report”, Perm J, 2016, Volume 20.
  6. Devinsky, O., et al., “Randomized, Dose-ranging Safety Trial of Cannabidiol in Dravet Syndrome”, Neurology, 2018, Volume 90.
  7. Lattanzi, S., Brigo, F.,Cagnetti, C., Trinka, E., Silvestrini, M., Efficacy and Safety of Adjunctive Cannabidiol in Patients with Lennox–Gastaut Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”, CNS Drugs, Epub.
  8. Blake, D. R., Robson, P., Ho, M., Jubb, R.W., McCabe, C.S., “Preliminary Assessment of the Efficacy, Tolerability and Safety of a Cannabis-based Medicine (Sativex) in the Treatment of Pain Caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis”, Rheumatology, 2005, Volume 45.
  9. Iffland, K., Grotenhermen, F., “An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol:

A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies”, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2017, Volume 2.1.

About the author

Loren Devito, PhD

Loren DeVito, PhD is a neuroscientist and science writer with expertise in cannabis science and medicine. She is committed to communicating evidence-based information about cannabis and its healing properties. Learn more about her work at