Is Cannabis A Potential Alternative to Benzodiazepines for Anxiety Relief?

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Is Cannabis A Potential Alternative to Benzodiazepines for Anxiety Relief?

As cannabis prohibition relaxes in some parts of the world, the herb is making a comeback in the medical realm. Accessing cannabis in Chicago is now convenient by obtaining a Chicago medical marijuana card, granting legal permission to consume cannabis.

As study in this area grows, we are learning more about how cannabinoids interact with the human body. The interaction of active ingredients THC and CBD and how they are mediated by receptors in the human endogenous cannabinoid system, or simply the endocannabinoid system, is perhaps the most important finding thus far.

Cannabis is now available in some areas as a medicine and can be bought with a medical card. Cannabis is prescribed for a variety of medical problems, including chronic pain, and it also has significant anti-anxiety potential. “Does cannabis truly compare to prescription drugs as a treatment for anxiety disorders?” Let’s compare cannabis to one of the most often given kinds of anti-anxiety medications, benzodiazepines.

An Overview of Anxiety

Anxiety is a mental state characterized by a variety of symptoms, including emotions of fear, concern, and anxiety. Anxiety is a typical human emotion at times, especially when an important life event, such as tests, meetings, or interviews, is coming.

Because of the seeming importance of these events, some of us become lost in contemplation, wondering what conceivable consequences will emerge or what could go wrong. However, anxiety can be one of the key difficulties embedded in other linked disorders, prompting some people to seek medical attention in the hopes of finding a medicine to alleviate their symptoms. Anxiety disorders span a wide range of disorders; the ones listed here are some of the most regularly treated.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder, is a chronic anxiety illness that can cause a long-term and unreasonable state of worrying over ordinary events including money, health, or employment. 

  • Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is another sort of anxiety condition. This condition might result in a sudden onset of intense terror, as well as confusion, subjective breathing issues, or tachycardia.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder 

The continual fear of being judged by others characterizes social anxiety disorder. This is generally accompanied by a fear that one’s behavior in social circumstances may result in personal shame or embarrassment. A racing heart, dizziness or lightheadedness, muscle tension, confusion, and even an upset stomach or nausea are symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

  • OCD 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disorder characterized by distressing and recurrent thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors. Medical family history, stressful life events, or other neurological problems are all risk factors for this disorder.

Benzodiazepines

Xanax, Librium, Valium, and Ativan are examples of benzodiazepines that are often given to treat anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines are a wide class of medications that share commonalities in their mechanism of action in the central nervous system. They do, however, differ in terms of effectiveness and duration of effects. These sedative medications act by occupying GABA-A receptors in the brain. This results in a cell becoming negatively charged and so resistant to excitation, resulting in the drug’s anti-anxiety properties.

Are These Medications Hazardous?

In the United States, benzodiazepines are classed as a Schedule 4 substance. Cannabis, on the other hand, is classified as Schedule 1, which means it is potentially addictive and has no medical use. This perplexing choice gives the impression that “benzos” are safer than cannabis, whereas the safety profile of both medicines should be disputed.

Benzodiazepines, particularly when combined with other substances, have been connected to lethal overdose deaths. These medicines are among the most expedited narcotics in the United States and Europe, and many people believe they are overprescribed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 22,000 people died from prescription medication overdoses in 2013. According to reports, 31% of the deaths were connected or directly linked with benzodiazepines prescribed for problems such as anxiety.

Benzodiazepines were taken by around 5.2% of US adults in 2008. Despite their widespread use, these medicines can generate both physical and psychological addictions, which can result in severe withdrawal symptoms such as increased anxiety, sleeplessness, and, in some cases, seizures.

Drowsiness, disorientation, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, slurred speech, lack of coordination, and, in the worst cases, difficulties breathing and even coma can be side effects of high doses of benzodiazepines. Chronic use of these medicines causes tolerance, which means users require increasing doses to achieve the same effect. When tolerance develops, symptoms like sleeplessness, inattention, weakness, and even anxiety, the very illness for which they are taken, may resurface.

This class of medications has the potential for abuse and dependence, which is a valid evaluation. Let’s see if cannabis may be used as a natural substitute for these drugs.

Is Cannabis Significantly Safer?

Cannabis is an exceedingly safe substance in terms of its usage as a potential treatment in humans, with no overdose-related human deaths when consumed alone. The American Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Schedule 1 classification of cannabis places it among the world’s most dangerous drugs, claiming a high potential for abuse and no proven medicinal value.

The inclusion of cannabis in this category is based on ignorance and scientific illiteracy. A scientific paper named “Comparative risk assessment of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and other illicit drugs using the margin exposure approach” demonstrated how danger-free cannabis is.

The study looked at the toxicity of drugs such alcohol, marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, nicotine, and amphetamines. Cannabis was rated the sole low-risk drug among all of these substances. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that cannabis is 114 times less lethal than alcohol.

The Anxiety-Reducing Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis is used in the United States to treat anxiety disorders such as the aforementioned post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Given the plant’s ability to produce relaxation, one may anticipate how particular cannabis strains could alleviate anxiety symptoms.

A paper published in the journal Biological Psychiatry describes a study that looked into cannabis’s anti-anxiety benefits. 50 male volunteers who used pot on a regular basis were observed and compared to 50 control subjects who did not smoke. Participants who used cannabis on a regular basis had reduced anxiety scores as compared to those in the control group.

In this study, researchers also wanted to look into probable connections between cannabis and benzodiazepine receptors in mice. They discovered that cannabis binds to the same receptor locations as benzodiazepines.

If you’re experiencing anxiety and seek to incorporate cannabis into your medical routine for legal access while residing in West Virginia, obtaining a West Virginia medical marijuana card is essential. This card ensures legal permission and helps avoid potential legal issues associated with cannabis use.

CBD And Anxiety

A paper titled “Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug” evaluated studies on CBD’s potential as an anti-anxiety medication. According to the paper’s authors, “future clinical trials involving patients with various anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, are warranted.” CBD’s therapeutic window and the particular mechanisms involved in its anxiolytic activity are still unknown.”

CBD For Social Anxiety

A paper published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology investigated whether CBD affected social anxiety. Before taking part in a simulated public speaking test, subjects with social anxiety disorder who had never received therapy were given 600mg of CBD or a placebo. CBD considerably reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech delivery, according to the findings. CBD also reduced alertness in their anticipatory speech significantly.

Recent Research on Benzodiazepines Contradicts Previous Studies

A new study on 146 individuals with an average age of 47 years is the first to indicate lower benzodiazepine use among patients who began medical cannabis therapy. More than 45% of patients discontinue their benzodiazepine regimen after six months, according to the findings. The study is named “Reduction of Benzodiazepine Use in Medical Cannabis Patients.”

Patients also reported an overall sense of well-being and less suffering from their diseases after beginning the medical cannabis program. The link between medical cannabis medication and decreased benzodiazepine use appears to be clear in this study, albeit larger-scale investigations need to expand our understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in such findings.

30.1% of patients stopped taking benzodiazepines after completing a 2-month course of medical cannabis. After 4 months, 44.5% had stopped using benzodiazepines, and in the final stage, 66 patients (45.2%) had stopped using them.