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CBD Oil for Panic Attacks [Can It Help?]

As is the case with many medical conditions, the data surrounding the prevalence of panic attacks vary. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 2.7% of American adults experienced Panic Disorder (PD) in the previous year. This equates to approximately 2.4 million people. More than double the percentage of females (3.8%) had it compared to males (1.6%). NIMH also said that up to 4.7% of adults in the U.S. experience PD at some point in their lives.

The ‘degree’ of impairment ranged from mild to serious, determined via scores on the Sheehan Disability Scale. Here is the rundown:

  • 8% had a serious impairment
  • 5% had a moderate impairment
  • 7% had a mild impairment

There is a range of treatment options for individuals with PD. However, there is a growing trend towards the use of CBD oil for panic attacks. In this guide, we investigate PD further, looking at its causes and symptoms. We also delve into studies to outline whether there is enough evidence linking CBD to an improvement in PD symptoms.

What Is Panic Disorder?

PD is often classified as one of the several anxiety disorders outlined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). While it isn’t the most prevalent, it is a frightening experience for many. Panic Disorder can strike without any warning or reason. It causes sudden attacks of anxiety and fear, along with physical symptoms, including a racing heart.

Those who have experienced a panic attack sometimes say they feel as if they are having a heart attack or dying. In most cases, people with PD will only experience a panic attack once or twice in their lifetimes. In these situations, the problems go away once the period of stress ends. However, for others, panic disorder can result in continued attacks.

In extreme cases, the individual in question can develop a constant fear of further attacks. This mindset results in a quality of life reduction as the patient struggles to function. A PD sufferer may also have problems such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and depression. While they aren’t usually life-threatening, panic attacks remain frightening, and the condition can take control of an individual’s life.

Panic Disorder – What Are the Symptoms?

One of the primary issues with PD is that attacks can hit a person out of the blue with no warning signs. For example, someone may have an attack when driving a car or in the middle of a meeting. Though there are variations of panic attacks, in most cases, the symptoms generally hit a peak in a matter of minutes. On average, they may last 5-20 minutes. When someone has a panic attack, here are a few of the things that could happen:

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • An overwhelming feeling of terror
  • A sensation of smothering or choking
  • A stomach ache or nausea
  • Shaking or trembling
  • A sense of being in severe danger

The frequency of the attacks depends on the severity of the condition. Some patients only have a couple of attacks in their entire life. Others could have them several times a week. In general, a panic attack is frightening but not dangerous. However, this depends on what the person is doing when it happens.

It is recommended that patients see a physician if panic disorder and the subsequent attacks are significantly impacting daily life.

What Are the Possible Causes & Risk Factors?

Researchers are not sure as to the cause of PD. However, studies suggest it is a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics: Panic Disorder may run in families. It is potentially passed on by one or both parents, just like eye color.
  • Biology: PD could occur due to problems in the nervous system and parts of the brain.
  • Substance Abuse: You are more likely to have Panic Disorder if you use drugs or alcohol to excess.
  • Major Life Stress: Significant transitions or stressful events can trigger PD. Examples include the death of a loved one, sexual abuse, divorce, a new baby, or a severe accident.

Complications of the condition include:

  • Avoiding social situations
  • Financial problems
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Increased risk of an anxiety disorder, depression, or another psychiatric disorder
  • Heightened risk of suicide or self-harm
  • Problems at school or work
  • An increased number of visits to doctors and hospitals out of concern for other medical issues
  • The development of phobias such as agoraphobia, the fear of leaving the house

What Are the Possible Treatment Options?

There is no guaranteed method of avoiding panic attacks or preventing Panic Disorder. Whatever else happens, getting treatment as soon as possible is imperative. Otherwise, there is a risk of further complications. In the United States, DSM-5 remains the standard reference manual for the diagnosis of mental illnesses. It isn’t easy to find evidence of PD, though doctors usually perform a complete physical exam and blood tests. They also provide a psychological evaluation to discuss symptoms, fears, and concerns.

A doctor may diagnose PD if the patient has at least two unexpected panic attacks, or if they have at least a month of constant worry about another attack. Treatment options include psychotherapy and medication such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and Benzodiazepines. However, the use of CBD for panic attacks is gaining some traction. Let’s investigate it a little further.

The Science of Stress

There is a lot for researchers to learn regarding CBD oil and panic attacks. Indeed, the level of research has only begun to escalate in recent years. Therefore, relatively little is known about how CBD impacts the body and mind. What we know is that PD is one of many anxiety disorders.

Our genetic makeup has a significant impact on how we respond to stress. Miniscule differences to neurotransmitters and hormones could have a considerable effect. Chronic stress results in the release of stress hormones that get you ready for the ‘fight or flight’ response. As it happens, a human’s body isn’t designed to handle constant anxiety. A person with an extremely high level of stress hormones, such as cortisol, will experience various side effects, including:

  • Depression
  • Weight Gain
  • Headaches
  • Muscular Tension
  • Heart Disease
  • Weakened Immune System

Chronic stress also has a profound effect on the brain. It tells the brain to focus and get ready. If the message isn’t switched off, the brain eventually changes to try and tune it out. Certain brain regions shrink, while others become hyperactive. Also, the level of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (and their receptors) change.

CBD Oil for Panic Attacks – How Could it Help?

Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t provide an intoxicating high, but it most certainly impacts the endocannabinoid system. Some estimates claim that cannabidiol has over 60 targets throughout the body. As a result, it is challenging to pinpoint any reasons why it could provide therapeutic benefits.

Research suggests that CBD stimulates neurotransmitter systems and neural regeneration to counteract anxiety. For example, serotonin has a minimum of 14 receptors, but CBD binds to 5-HT1A; the receptor believed to have the most significant role in anxiety disorders. Incidentally, buspirone, an anti-anxiety drug, also binds to the 5-HT1A receptor.

The body produces natural cannabinoids used by the body and brain in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The theory is that CBD restores balance to the ECS by stopping the overstimulation of the CB1 receptors.

Chronic stress can shrink parts of the brain and damage neurons. However, there are areas of the brain that can regenerate. Throughout our lives, we continually form neurons and make new connections. The suggestion is that CBD can provide balance to the damage caused by stress.

A study by Prenderville et al. published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in August 2015, looked at the role of cannabinoids in adult neurogenesis. It found that CBD encouraged neural regeneration, especially in the hippocampus region of the brain. The cannabinoid even stimulated the growth of new neurons in stressed-out mice.

Much of the research to date was performed on rodents. Blessing et al. published a review of 32 studies in Neurotherapeutics in September 2015. The researchers looked at CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. They found that in 31 of the studies, the compound provided useful results.

Is There Any CBD for Panic Attacks Research on Humans?

There are relatively few studies that specifically look at CBD oil for panic attacks. However, Soares and Campos looked at the potential anti-panic actions of cannabidiol. They published the research in Current Neuropharmacology in February 2017. They analyzed an electronic database to look for studies relating to CBD and panic disorder, CBD and anxiety, and the 5-HT1A receptor.

The scientists concluded that CBD was possibly a promising drug for treating PD. They checked research that involved humans and animals. However, Soares and Campos also said that new clinical trials involved patients with a PD diagnosis were needed. They said such research would help clarify the specific way in which CBD works, and the ideal dosages.

There is an ongoing eight-week pilot study that’s sponsored by McMaster University set to conclude in October 2020. The clinical trial involves 50 participants with various anxiety disorders, including PD. It is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study looking at how CBD capsules work when compared to a placebo. The period of treatment is eight weeks, with each participant involved for a maximum of 10 weeks. Otherwise, the most relevant recent studies related to generalized anxiety.

What Is the Best Way to Use CBD for Panic Attacks?

There are a variety of options on the market. CBD oil for panic attacks remains one of the most popular options. It is among the least expensive choices and involves dropping the concoction beneath your tongue. Hold it there for at least 60 seconds before swallowing. This process is supposed to bring the sublingual gland into play. CBD edibles and capsules are consumed orally and offer a quick and easy way to use CBD.

An increasing number of patients with anxiety prefer to ‘vape’ CBD. There are question marks over the safety of vaping after a spate of deaths related to the practice. However, in most cases, the victim used illegal cannabis oil, with vitamin E-acetate heavily implicated. Lovers of vaping enjoy it because it provides a faster ‘effect.’ A vaporizer heats the liquid until it produces a vapor. The user waits a few seconds and inhales. It is a cleaner method of consumption than smoking, and the vapor is refreshingly cool.

One big issue with CBD is the lack of regulation. Any prospective entrepreneur can sell the cannabinoid. Only a handful of states provide any oversight. As a result, we recommend only dealing with brands that offer third-party lab reports. Otherwise, you are taking a risk by not knowing the true contents.

Also, the FDA has not yet approved the cannabinoid. As a result, there is no guidance regarding dosage. If you intend to use CBD for panic attacks, start with a low dose, and wait to see if it has any effect. Increase the amount you use slowly until you are happy with the outcome.

Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Panic Attacks

The available research suggests that there is potentially some merit to using CBD for panic attacks. PD affects millions of people around the world and could ruin a person’s life. There is a growing demand for a form of treatment that provides real results without adverse effects. The suggestion is that CBD is the answer.

However, research into how CBD helps people with PD is limited. Most research to date involves animals, especially rodents. We anticipate that this situation will change sooner rather than later. It is also important to note that in many studies into CBD and anxiety, participants used CBD doses far above what a person uses on average. It is interesting to see whether smaller amounts of cannabidiol are as effective.

Anxiety Disorders
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