Anxiety and anxiety-related disorders are the most common mental illness in the world today. They are also one of the areas of medical treatment to which medical cannabis looks set to be of real value. This is largely down to the way that medical cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990’s which is very recent in scientific terms. While researchers are still uncovering new facts about this system and what functions it performs in the human body, they have identified some key areas in which the ECS is essential to health and wellness. And these show real promise for the treatment of anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.
The ECS plays an important role in the control of emotions, and its performance has been implicated in several psychiatric disorders. This means that studies have indicated that in people who are suffering with a form of mental illness, the ECS is not functioning as it should. When the ECS is functioning at its best, it acts as a mood stabilizer and regulator of emotions.
The most common self-reported reason for using cannabis is rooted in its ability to reduce feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety. Nevertheless, there are only few studies in controlled clinical settings that confirm that the administration of cannabinoids can benefit patients with mental illnesses such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
However, many if not most of the scientific studies which have been conducted into medical cannabis have been of a relatively poor research standard. This is largely caused by the classification of medical cannabis as a Schedule 1. Drug under federal law. This classification significantly limits the scope of research and means that findings must always be taken with a pinch of salt.
With that being said, there is sufficient encouraging preclinical results to suggest that endocannabinoid-targeted therapeutics for anxiety disorders should be further explored. The link between the ECS and emotional health is no longer deniable. We may not yet understand how that link works, but we know that it does. While the findings of these studies aren’t conclusive, they’re very promising and certainly sufficient enough to justify further study.
Studies have been carried out on the treatment of rats and mice who have been given anxiety and PTSD in a labratory. Research has shown that cannabinoids have beneficial effects on the endocannabinoid systems in both. This is very positive indeed. However, they may also cause anxiogenic effects on the rats and mice too. This means that they could actually increase anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. So, the picture isn’t as clear as researchers would like it to be.
Because the effects of cannabinoids on anxiety and anxiety-related disorders remains unclear, much more research is needed. However, what is clear is that treating these illnesses by targeting the endocannabinoid system is a promising route for future treatment.
Clinical and preclinical research on the endocannabinoid system should further study the effects of cannabinoids on anxiety. This will help to determine whether the benefits of using exogenous cannabinoids outweigh the risks. On balance, it seems difficult to deny that targeting the endocannabinoid system represents a promising and novel approach to the treatment of anxiety-related disorders.