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Study Indicates Cannabis Medicines Effective for Anxiety

Results from a recent study suggest cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) show promise as therapeutics for individuals suffering from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry or anxiety about various aspects of life, even when there may be little or no apparent reason for concern. Individuals with GAD may also experience symptoms including restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension and sleep disturbances.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 5.7% of U.S. adults experience generalized anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. GA affects people of all ages; including children, adolescents, and adults. The disorder tends to develop gradually, often beginning in childhood or adolescence and persisting into adulthood if left untreated. Women are twice as likely to be affected by GAD as men, and its impacts can be anything from mild to debilitating, preventing patients from functioning effectively.

Treatment options for GAD may include psychotherapy, self-help strategies, medication, or a combination of all three. Medications used to treat the condition include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), benzodiazepines, Buspirone and beta-blockers. Among the potential problems associated with conventional anxiety medications are dependence and various side effects.

And for some patients, conventional medications simply aren’t effective. There is therefore a need for new treatment options, and the endocannabinoid system has shown potential as a target for pharmacological intervention using medicinal cannabis.

A new study, conducted by researchers from various institutions including King’s College London and Imperial College London, involved 302 patients with GAD who were enrolled in the UK Medical Cannabis Registry and prescribed either oil or flower-based CBMPs. The primary objectives of the study were to assess changes in anxiety levels over time using the generalised anxiety disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaire and to evaluate secondary outcomes.

The results were encouraging. Patients generally reported significant improvements in anxiety, sleep quality, and overall quality of life at each point during the study.  In terms of safety, out of the 302 participants, 39 individuals (12.9%) reported a total of 269 adverse events during the follow-up period. The most common adverse effects were dry mouth, fatigue, insomnia, somnolence, lethargy and nausea. No side effects were reported as life-threatening or disabling.

While encouraging, the researchers emphasize the need for further investigation for obtaining more robust evidence on the efficacy of CBMPs in treating anxiety disorders. Additional research will also help to establish the optimal dosage, delivery methods, and long-term effects of CBMPs for GAD patients.

The UK Medical Cannabis Registry contains data of patients in the UK treated for a range of conditions; including prescribed formulations, adverse events, and patient-reported outcomes. The data, which has been anonymized, is made available on request to the medical community for analysis.

On a related note, we recently reported on a recently released Australian study indicating a growing proportion of medicinal cannabis prescriptions in that country are for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Anxiety disorders led, representing approximately 67% of psychiatry-related prescriptions.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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