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Cannabidiol has therapeutic potential in the treatment of anxiety and substance abuse disorders

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A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that cannabidiol could aid the treatment of anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the major non-psychoactive components found in marijuana. However, most recreational marijuana contains low levels of CBD but high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical most closely associated with the drug’s psychoactive effects. A review of research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology concluded that CBD has some therapeutic potential, but more research is needed.

PsyPost interviewed the review’s corresponding author, Carl W. Stevenson of the University of Nottingham. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

Stevenson: We have previously published work on the effects of cannabidiol, a chemical found in cannabis, on fear behaviour in different animal models of anxiety. Cannabidiol is safe for humans to use and doesn’t cause the ‘high’ associated with cannabis, meaning that it might be useful for treating certain symptoms without the unwanted side effects linked to medical cannabis. When we were asked by the British Journal of Pharmacology for a contribution to their ‘Pharmacology of Cognition’ themed issue we suggested a review of the relevant literature on cannabidiol regulation of both fear and reward memory processes in relation to anxiety and addiction, respectively.

What should the average person take away from your review article?

Our review confirmed that cannabidiol reduces fear and anxiety in various animal models, when given on its own or in conjunction with behavioural interventions that model psychological treatment for anxiety. Our review suggested that it can also reduce relapse in some animal models of addiction, although this research is still in its infancy. Some recent studies in humans have hinted at beneficial effects of cannabidiol on regulating fear and drug craving in anxiety and addiction, respectively, so follow-up studies are warranted.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

The human studies that have been carried out to date, in both healthy volunteers and in patients, have used small numbers of people so larger scale studies are needed to confirm the effects of cannabidiol from the animal studies. Other areas for future research include comparing the effects of acute vs repeated cannabidiol treatment in animal models and looking at the effects of combining psychological therapy with cannabidiol treatment on patient symptoms.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

One of the co-authors (Francisco Guimarães) is co-inventor of the patent “Fluorinated CBD compounds, compositions and uses thereof. Pub. No.: WO/2014/108899. International Application No.: PCT/IL2014/050023”; Def. US no. Reg. 62193296; 29/07/2015; INPI in 19/08/2015 (BR1120150164927).

The article, “Cannabidiol regulation of emotion and emotional memory processing: relevance for treating anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders“, was also co-authored by Jonathan L. C. Lee, Leandro J. Bertoglio, and Francisco S. Guimarães. It was published on March 9, 2017.

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