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Is CBD Better Than Mainstream Medications for Treating Mental Health Issues?

Is CBD Better Than Mainstream Medications for Treating Mental Health Issues?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is increasingly becoming one the most looked at cannabinoids to help with a variety of different ailments. People are looking to CBD for help with chronic pain, inflammation, nausea, insomnia, and much more.

CBD, which comes from the hemp plant, is a cannabinoid that interacts with neuroreceptors in the endocannabinoid system. There is much still to be learned about how this system works, but so far the results look very promising in a number of fields. 

And one of the best parts of CBD, perhaps its main selling point, is how few side effects it has. So when it comes to looking at the mental health arena, where side effects of medications are a major problem, CBD begins to look like an attractive option.

Is CBD Better Than Mainstream Medications for Treating Mental Health Issues?

This is a big question, and the answer is that the jury is still out. There have been a lot of important studies, reviews, and case studies that we’ll talk about below that indicate there is potential benefit to using CBD to assist mental health issues. But it’s also important to note that any treatment of a medical issue should be discussed with a medical professional before you begin any regimen.

There are two primary problems with mainstream mental health medications. The first is that they are very hit-and-miss, or they rely on trial and error to arrive at the right drug for the right patient. The second problem with mainstream mental health medications is that they are rife with unwanted side effects. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the following are side effects of the most common anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and antipsychotic medications: nausea and vomiting, weight gain, diarrhea, sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, headache, confusion, memory problems, blurred vision, tics and tremors, seizures, and thoughts of suicide. And that’s just an abbreviated list of the most common symptoms. While there is no doubt that studies have found these medications to be beneficial in many situations, that’s a tough barrier to cross.

On the other hand, the following are the common side effects of CBD, according to the Mayo Clinic: dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness and fatigue. 

While this is not conclusive proof that CBD is better than mainstream mental health medications, it certainly does make CBD look attractive. 

But now let’s look at individual mental health disorders and see what CBD might be able to do for them.

Treating Mental Health Issues With CBD

Anxiety and CBD

Several studies have been performed that indicate a decrease in anxiety due to the use of CBD. First, there was a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which showed that CBD “has shown therapeutic efficacy in a range of animal models of anxiety and stress, reducing both behavioral and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety.” The study further states that in small scale human testing, CBD was shown to decrease anxiety in people who were about to perform in a public speaking environment. 

Another type of anxiety, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) was studied in 2011 by the Journal of Psychopharmacology and it was found that participants who took a 400mg dose of CBD had overall reduced levels of anxiety than those who took the placebo.

Depression and CBD

A study review in 2018 in Frontiers of Immunology found that there was evidence of decreased signs of depression in animal subjects. The authors of the study also found that “worked without activating the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors directly, which may indicate that there is less risk of CBD becoming habit-forming, or addictive.”

Another study in 2018, this one from the journal Molecular Neurobiology, found that “CBD has promise as a fast-acting antidepressant.”

While these studies have only used animal models, it is still promising that CBD may hold answers as an antidepressant in humans. 


CBD has not been tested widely in people suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but there have been a few case reports published that show promise. 

Also a 2020 study published in the National Library for Medicine studied the use of cannabis generally (including cannabis with THC) and found that there was a 60% reduction in compulsions, 49% reduction in intrusive thoughts, and a 52% reduction in anxiety. Now, while this study encompassed all cannabis, they did make the statement that “cannabis with higher doses of CBD led to a larger reduction in compulsive behavior.”


There has been somewhat more human testing on people suffering from PTSD. One 2019 study found that people with PTSD who took CBD alongside counseling found a reduction in their symptoms. 

Further, a 2016 study found that CBD applied topically to the skin of children with PTSD helped to treat their anxiety and sleeping problems. 

So Which Option is Better?

Clearly, there is more research that has been done into mainstream medicine to prove its effectiveness, which is why these medicines have been approved by the FDA for use. However, there are many concerns about these medicines, both about their hit-and-miss effectiveness and their side effects. There is also the concern about the addictive nature of mainstream medicines.

For now, the best path forward is to look at the promises and benefits of CBD, read the studies, and, of course, consult with your medical practitioner before you undertake a course of treatment for any mental health issue. 

Are you ready to look into more uses for CBD?

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