If you’ve ever dealt with anxiety or panic attacks, you understand the urgent need for relief. With symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, and trembling — according to the Mayo Clinic — anxiety is no walk in the park.
If you’re looking to use cannabidiol (CBD) to help curb anxiety, you’ll first have to choose a delivery method. And seeing as there are about a million ways to get cannabis into your body — vapes, oils, sprays, joints, edibles, topicals, and capsules all included — narrowing it down can be harder than you might expect.
Still, it feels like more people are turning to CBD to manage their anxiety by the day. And that’s not entirely untrue! According to a survey conducted by the cannabis delivery platform Eaze, relaxation, stress, and anxiety relief are the top three reasons why adults have tried CBD. That was corroborated by a recent Gallup poll, which found that relieving anxiety is the second-most popular reason Americans use CBD.
But the question remains: Which delivery method is best for chronic use? Do some work faster than others? Read on to find out how to use CBD to get yourself relief from anxiety, stat.
There isn’t an abundance of research on CBD and anxiety, but the compound has displayed anti-anxiety properties in various studies, including one small human trial showing that pre-treating with CBD led to significantly lower levels of public-speaking induced anxiety, as detailed in a 2009 paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. The bad news is that if you’re using the wrong delivery method, you might not be getting the full anti-anxiety benefits of CBD, which brings us to…
If you’re suffering from severe anxiety or a panic attack, you’ll want the quickest delivery method possible — and that’s inhalation. According to a report published by the Department of Health of the Government of the District of Columbia, cannabinoid levels peaked just 3 to 10 minutes after the onset of smoking. When you vape or smoke you can feel the effects fast — which can be ideal for acute situations — but the same study also showed that cannabinoid levels cleared the body in about 3 hours, so the effects are not long-lasting.
A word of caution: There are definitely some concerns about the safety of vaping, especially in the long-term. In fact, in April 2018 the U.S. Army issued a public health warning after dozens of people came in with health issues linked to CBD vape pen usage. More recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found a link between severe lung damage and vape pens. So yes, inhaling CBD is quick — but it’s probably best done only occasionally.
If you’re using CBD for regular management of anxiety, a sublingual oil or spray may be a better option than inhalation. When administered under the tongue, some of the cannabinoids can absorb through the mucous membrane and go straight to the bloodstream. According to a 2003 paper published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, sublingual oils will take more time to start working but the effects will also last longer compared to inhalation.
Finally, you can take CBD orally in the form of an edible or supplement capsule. These are the slowest delivery methods — as the authors of a 2003 study published in Clinical Pharmacokinetics wrote, “Following oral ingestion, psychotropic effects set in with a delay of 30 to 90 minutes [and] reach their maximum after 2 to 3 hours.” The upside to taking a capsule or edible is that once they do start working, the effects could last as long as 12 hours, according to the same study.
At the end of the day, the best delivery method for anxiety depends on your goals. If you’re looking for quick relief, try inhaling or using a sublingual spray. If you’re looking for help managing chronic anxiety over the long-term, capsules or edibles might be a good place to turn.
Just remember that while CBD displays anxiolytic properties, anxiety is one of the side effects of THC. Proceed with caution and — as the authors of a 2018 paper published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine wrote — adopt a “start low, go slow” dosing strategy. In other words, kick things off with the lowest possible dose and then slowly increase from there until you get the desired effects.