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Anxiety Disorder – Medical Marijuana Research Overview

The following information is presented for educational purposes only. Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an understanding of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to third party websites do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Medical Marijuana Inc. and none should be inferred.

Anxiety disorders are mental conditions that are characterized by worry and fear. Studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), found in cannabis, effectively reduces anxiety.

Anxiety Disorder – Medical Marijuana Research Overview

Anxiety disorders are a collection of mental disorders that cause such severe levels of distress and fear that they interfere with the ability to maintain daily life. There are several recognized types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. The anxiety associated with anxiety disorders lasts for at least six months.

Panic disorders cause terror sensations that strike suddenly and without warning. Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, causes feelings of overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. Specific phobias cause an intense fear of a specific situation or object. Generalized anxiety disorder causes excessive and unrealistic worry and tension over minimal or non-threatening situations.

In addition to feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness, anxiety disorders can cause sleeping problems, cold or sweaty hands and feet, breath shortness, heart palpitations, dry mouth, an inability to be still and calm, numbness in the hands and feet, nausea, muscle tension and dizziness.

The cause of anxiety disorders is not yet known, but according to WebMD, research suggests that they stem from a combination of factors, including environmental stress and changes in the brain. Anxiety disorders commonly arise in association with other mental or physical illnesses, such as alcohol or substance abuse.

Treatment efforts for anxiety disorders can include working with a mental health professional and medications to reduce symptoms. Other coexisting conditions, like alcoholism or substance abuse, may need to be treated and addressed prior to anxiety disorder treatment.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Anxiety Disorders

While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has shown to increase anxiety, both animal and human studies have shown that another major cannabinoid found in cannabis — cannabidiol (CBD) — possesses anxiolytic-like effects8,9,10,14,16,17,18,19 .

One study found that CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in social phobia patients before they were subjected to simulated public speaking3. A similar study also found CBD to have an anxiolytic effect on individuals submitted to a simulated public speaking test20. Another found CBD to significantly decrease subjective anxiety in individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder6.

Cannabinoids have shown they can reverse stress-induced anxiety by inhibiting fatty acid amide hydrolase, the anandamide-degrading enzyme4. This is likely due to cannabinoid’s interaction with cannabinoid receptors, particularly the CB2 receptor, as they have shown to inhibit the fatty acid amid hydrolase and reduce vulnerability to anxiety11,12,15. One study found that it was through CBD’s activation of the cannabinoid receptors that provided an anxiolytic effect in stressed mice5. Another study, however, showed that it was through CBD’s activation of 5-HT1A receptors that caused an anxiolytic-like effect in rats exposed to tests13. In another, CBD’s action on limbic and paralimbic brain areas were shown to be responsible for its anxiolytic properties7.

States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Anxiety Disorders

Currently, no states have approved medical marijuana for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

However, in Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment. In addition, various other states will consider allowing medical marijuana to be used for the treatment of anxiety disorders with the recommendation from a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Massachusetts (other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).

Clinical Trials, Studies and Publications – Effects of Marijuana, Cannabis, Cannabidiol and Hemp on Anxiety Disorders


  1. Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center: Anxiety Disorders. (n.d.). WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-anxiety-disorders.
  2. Anxiety Disorders. (2015, May). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml.
  3. Bergamaschi, M.M., Queiroz, R.H.C., Chagas, M.H.N., de Oliveira, D.C.G., De Martinis, B.S., Kapczinski, F., Quevedo, J., Roesler, R., Schroeder, N., Nardi, A.E., Martin-Santos, R., Hallak, J.E., Zuardi, A.W., and Crippa, J.A.S. (2011). Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219–1226. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079847/.
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  5. Campos, A.C., Ortega, Z., Palazuelos, J., Fogaca, M.V., Aguiar, D.C., Diaz-Alonso, J., Ortega-Gutierrez, S., Vazquez-Villa, H., Moreira, F.A., Guzman, M., Galve-Roperh, I., and Guimaraes, F.S. (2013, July). The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 16(6), 1407-19. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article-lookup/doi/10.1017/S1461145712001502.
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  8. de Mello Schier, A.R., de Oliveira Ribeiro, N.P., Coutinho, D.S., Machado, S., Arias-Carrion, O., Crippa, J.A., Zuardi, A.W., Nardi, A.E., and Silva, A.C. (2014). Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, 13(6), 953-60. Retrieved from http://www.eurekaselect.com/122699/article.
  9. de Mello Schier, A.R., Ribeiro, N.P., Silva, A.C., Hallak, J.E., Crippa, J.A., Nardi, A.E., and Zuardi, A.W. (2012, June). Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug. Revista Brasileiria de Psiquiatria, 34 suppl 1: S104-10. Retrieved from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-44462012000500008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en.
  10. Fusar-Poli, P., Crippa, J.A., Bhattacharyya, S., Borgwardt, S.J., Allen, P., Martin-Santos, R., Seal, M., Surguladze, S.A., O’Carrol, C., Atakan, Z., Zuardi, A.W., and McGuire, P.K. Distinct effects of {delta}9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on neural activation during emotional processing. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(1), 95-105. Retrieved from http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/482939.
  11. García-Gutiérrez, M.S., García-Bueno, B., Zoppi, S., Leza, J.C., and Manzanares, J. (2012, February). Chronic blockade of cannabinoid CB2 receptors induces anxiolytic-like actions associated with alternations in GABAA British Journal of Pharmacology, 165(4), 951-964. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312491/.
  12. García-Gutiérrez, M.S., and Manzanares, J. (2011, January). Overexpression of CB2 cannabinoid receptors decreased vulnerability to anxiety and impaired anxiolytic action of alprazolam in mice. Journal of Pharmacology, 25(1), 111-120. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0269881110379507.
  13. Gomes, F.V., Resstel, L.B., and Guimaraes, F.S. (2011, February). The anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol injected into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis are mediated by 5-HT1A receptors. Psychopharmacology, 213(2-3), 465-73. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00213-010-2036-z.
  14. Lee, J.L.C., Bertoglio, L.J., Guimaraes, F.S., and Stevenson, C.W. (2017, March 9). Cannabidiol regulation of emotion and emotional memory processing: relevance for treating anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders. British Journal of Pharmacology, doi: 10.1111/bph.13724 [Epub ahead of print]. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.13724/full.
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  • August 27, 2015
  • Eve Ripley