An Australian pilot study indicates cannabidiol (CBD) may have a role to play in addressing chronic anxiety in youth.
Anxiety is the most common form of mental ill-health in young Australians, impacting 31.5 per cent of those aged 16–24 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics – that’s almost double the rate of the general population.
Orygen provides specialist mental health services for young people aged 15 to 25 years residing in the western and north-western regions of metropolitan Melbourne, Victoria.
Orygen’s Cannabidiol Youth Anxiety Pilot Study found young people with treatment-resistant anxiety experienced an average 42.6 per cent reduction in anxiety severity and impairment following 12 weeks of treatment with cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating and non-habit-forming cannabinoid.
“That’s an amazing change in the group which has had treatment-resistant, long-standing severe to very severe anxiety,” said Professor Paul Amminger, who led the research.
The study, which received financial and specialist technical support from the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, involved 31 participants aged 12–25. The starting dose was a single 200mg capsule of cannabidiol daily for the first week, which was then increased to 400mg. Where participants still didn’t experience any improvement, the dosage was bumped up in 200mg increments, up to a maximum 800mg per day.
All participants were also offered biweekly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions for 12 weeks.
“Our pilot study found that cannabidiol not only helped to reduce anxiety symptoms but it was also very well tolerated – the most common side-effects were mild sedation and mild fatigue but that was at the time when doses were increased and usually went away after a couple of days,” Professor Amminger said.
However, while mild, it should be noted adverse events were reported in 25 (80.6%) of the 31 participants.
The full findings of the Cannabidiol Youth Anxiety Pilot Study have been published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. This was an open-label study and one of its conclusions is randomised controlled trials are needed to confirm the efficacy and longer-term safety of CBD in this application.