The Disease:

Fear and anxiety are adaptive responses essential to coping with threats to survival. Yet excessive or persistent fear may be maladaptive, leading to disability. Symptoms arising from excessive fear and anxiety occur in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (PD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Currently available pharmacological treatments include serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressant drugs, and partial 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)1A receptor agonists. These medications are associated with limited response rates and residual symptoms and adverse effects may also limit tolerability and adherence.


Animal Research:

Anxiety causes physiologic changes in the brain in areas associated with fear including the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and cingulate cortex.1,2  Animal models of anxiety and fear clearly show an anxiolytic effect of CBD.2,3 CBD is anxiolytic either when given systemically or when injected into specific areas of the brain.4  This effect appears to be due to the interaction of CBD with receptors known to regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviors,  including CB1, 5HT1A, TRPV1, GPR 55, and others.5   This complex interaction of CBD with multiple receptors in the brain result in decreased anxiety and normalize the physiology in the areas of the brain associated with anxiety.1 Repeated use of CBD prevents the long-lasting anxiogenic effects of fear.5 CBD blocks anxiety-induced REM sleep alterations.6

Human Research:

CBD reduces the anxiety of individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder.7 In human patients with panic and anxiety, structural differences have been described in the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and cingulate cortex.8 Functional MRI studies show that CBD changes how the brain reacts to fear stimuli in these areas.9,10 CBD decreases fear expression, disrupts memory reconsolidation, attenuates fear upon memory retrieval, and enhances extinction (the psychological process by which exposure therapy inhibits learned fear).11-13 In addition, CBD displays antipsychotic properties, can prevent the acquisition of emotionally irrelevant memories, decreases salience attribution, reduces fear related to specific cues, and reverses adrenaline neuronal sensitization, all of which are helpful in anxiety/fear patients.12,14,15 CBD is so potent in reconsolidation that even older fear memories are equally vulnerable to disruption induced by CBD through reconsolidation blockade.16 It is theorized that CBD will help with dreams in patients with PTSD given that dreams are characterized by emotions, sensory perceptions, and bizarre components which are all affected by CBD in the alert state.17 CBD has no effect on sleep in healthy people when given at anxiolytic doses, but it may have an effect in patients with PTSD.18 CBD is so effective in decreasing anxiety that a single dose of CBD (300 mg, p.o.) decreased anxiety after the simulated public speaking test in healthy volunteers. However, CBD has minimal behavioral and subjective effects in healthy volunteers even when presented with emotional stimuli (negative or positive).19

Bottom Line:

CBD has been shown to decrease anxiety in patients with generalized social anxiety disorder.   CBD has been shown to decrease anxiety in certain situations and appears to have the potential to be very beneficial as an adjuvant in treating anxiety and fear disorders.  At this time, the FDA does not recommend CBD for the treatment of anxiety and/or fear.



  1. Patel S, etal. The endocannabinoid system as a target for novel anxiolytic drugs.  Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2017; 76(A): 55-66.
  2. Schier AR, et al. Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug.  Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012 Jun;34 Suppl 1:S104-10.
  3. Soares V and Campos A. Evidences for the anti-panic actions of cannabidiol. Curr Neuropharm 2017; 15:291-299.
  4. Blessing E, etal. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics 2015; 12:825-836.
  5. Campos AC, etal. Cannabidiol blocks long-lasting behavioral consequences of predator threat stress: possible involvement of 5HT1A receptors. J Psychiatr Res. 2012 Nov;46(11):1501-10.
  6. Hsiao YT, Yi PL, Li CL, Chang FC. Effect of cannabidiol on sleep disruption induced by the repeated combination tests consisting of open field and elevated plus-maze in rats. Neuropharmacology 2012 Jan;62(1):373-84.
  7. Bergamaschi MM, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. 2011 May;36(6):1219-26.
  8. 8. Pannekoek, JN, etal. Advances in the neuroimaging of panic disorder. Human Psychopharmacol Clin. Exper., 2013, 28(6), 608-611.
  9. Crippa JA, etal. Effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on regional cerebral blood flow.  2004 Feb;29(2):417-26.
  10. Fusar-Poli P, etal. Distinct effects of {delta}9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiolon neural activation during emotional processing.  Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 Jan;66(1):95-105.
  11. Stern CA, etal. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol alone and combined with cannabidiol mitigate fear memory through reconsolidation disruption. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Jun;25(6):958-65.
  12. Jurkus R, et al. Cannabidiol Regulation of Learned Fear: Implications for Treating Anxiety-Related Disorders.  Front Pharmacol. 2016 Nov 24;7:454.
  13. Lee JLC, et al. Cannabidiol regulation of emotion and emotional memory processing: relevance for treating anxiety-related and substance abuse disorders. Br J Pharmacol. 2017 Oct;174(19):3242-3256
  14. Hudson R, etal. Phytocannabinoids modulate emotional memory processing through interactions with the ventral hippocampus and mesolimbic dopamine system: implications for neuropsychiatric pathology. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Feb;235(2):447-458.
  15. Renard J, etal. Cannabidiol counteracts amphetamine-induced neuronal and behavioral sensitization of the mesolimbic dopamine pathway through a novel mTOR/p70S5 kinase signaling pathway. J Neurosci 2016; 36(18):5160-5169.
  16. Stern C, etal. On disruption of fear memory by reconsolidation blockage: evidence from cannabidiol treatment. Neuropsychopharmacology 2012; 37:2132-2142.
  17. Murillo-Rodriguez E, etal. The Endocannabinoid System Modulating Levels of Consciousness, Emotions and Likely Dream Contents.   CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2017;16(4):370-379.
  18. Linares I, etal, No actue effects of cannabidiol on the sleep-wake cycle of healthy subjects: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Frontiers Pharm 2018; 9:1-8.
  19. Arndt D and Wit H. Cannabidiol does not dampen responses to emotional stimuli in healthy adults. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res 2017: 2:105-113.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the Full Report

Privacy Policy: Absolutely no spam. We will never sell or share your information.  Unsubscribe at any time.

Get the full report of your disease, including the disease overview, CBD research overview, and "bottom line" implications.  FREE!

Scroll to Top