High-CBD cannabis products are more effective in quelling anxiety than THC-dominant ones, and with fewer side effects, according to new research from the University of Colorado Boulder.

The randomised trial examined how legal, commercially available cannabis impacts anxiety symptoms in the US. The research team recruited 300 people suffering from the condition, of whom 258 had tried cannabis at some point. The remaining 42 were non-users.

The larger group was assigned to use one of three flower products – THC-dominant (24% to 1% CBD), CBD-dominant (24% to 1% THC), or balanced (12% to 12%).

Over four weeks, participants could use the products as much and as frequently as they chose, with the average being three times per week. Researchers drove a mobile laboratory to each participant’s home and tested them prior to and directly after they smoked cannabis.

At the end of the study period, all four groups reported decreased anxiety. But the cannabis groups saw greater reductions than the non-cannabis group, and those using CBD-dominant products showed the most improvement of all.

While those in the CBD-dominant group didn’t feel impaired, they did feel less tense immediately after smoking. They were also less likely to experience paranoia immediately after use than those in the two other cannabis groups.

Adults in the US rank anxiety among the top three medical reasons for turning to cannabis, along with sleep and pain, yet research on whether it is effective in treating the condition has been mixed.

Senior author Cinnamon Bidwell said CBD has greater anti-inflammatory properties than THC, meaning CBD-dominant products could reduce anxiety by quelling inflammation in the brain and nerves. 

While numerous prescription drugs are available for treating the condition, many come with side effects and can lead to dependency. And both early and frequent use of THC can increase risk for cannabis-related harms, such as problem use and cognitive difficulties, Bidwell said.

She added: “Our study suggests that CBD products may be able to relieve anxiety in the moment for adults who use them, and possibly longer-term, in a way that is meaningful and doesn’t necessarily produce the same risks or harms of THC or prescription medications.

“We need more data before we can make conclusive recommendations, but this is promising news.”

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...

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