CBD for Panic Attacks and Anxiety: How to Use It, Safety, Dosage and Side Effects 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound found in cannabis sativa that possesses the ability to calm the mind and body. Discover how it can help you manage symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. 

Image of a girl with anxiety sitting on the floor close to a bed with hands placed on her chest

Key takeaways:

  • Panic attacks and anxiety share similar symptoms, but there are some differences.
  • Research evidence suggests CBD can help manage panic attacks and anxiety symptoms. But there is no specific dose for most CBD products. You may have to figure out the right dose for your needs or speak with a healthcare professional to help you.
  • Before using CBD for panic attacks and anxiety, it is important to understand that it can cause side effects like drowsiness, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and mood changes such as irritability.

Anxiety is a feeling of worry and fear in response to a real or perceived threat. It can be accompanied by symptoms such as an increased heart rate, nervousness, and sweating. If you have frequent anxiety episodes that interfere with your daily activities, it may be caused by anxiety disorder, which is a mental health condition.

Panic attacks share similar symptoms with anxiety. However, the main differences are that a panic attack can occur without a trigger, and the symptoms are usually more intense. Recurrent, unexpected panic attacks indicate you may have a condition called panic disorder. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical (cannabinoid) found in Cannabis sativa. CBD treatments have gained popularity in recent years, and evidence from research shows that CBD may help alleviate symptoms associated with various medical conditions.

CBD is generally safe to use medically. Epidiolex, a drug that contains cannabidiol as its active ingredient, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of two rare seizure disorders — Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.

Read on to find out how CBD can help with panic attacks and anxiety, different ways to take CBD, precautions to take when using CBD, as well as the possible side effects.  

Can CBD help with panic attacks and anxiety?

CBD can help manage symptoms associated with panic attacks and anxiety, as evidenced by the results of several studies.  

A 2011 study found that 400mg of CBD administered orally reduced anxiety levels in individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD).

In 2020, researchers published the outcome of a study involving 397 adults with different medical conditions, including anxiety and depression. The participants were prescribed CBD oil. After three weeks of using the oil, patients with anxiety and depression reported an improvement in their symptoms.

Also, according to a 2015 review of 49 studies, preclinical evidence suggests that CBD can be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

How CBD can help you manage panic attacks and anxiety

CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex cell-signaling system that regulates physiological processes such as mood, pain, and sleep. 

CBD interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are the main receptors in the ECS. CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system (CNS), while CB2 receptors are more abundant in the immune system. 

By interacting with CB1, CB2, and other receptors that play a role in mood regulation, such as serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, CBD is able to reduce anxiety and panic attack symptoms.  

Dosage and how to ingest CBD for alleviating anxiety and panic attacks

Aside from Epidiolex, which is FDA-approved, there is no established dosage for CBD products. You may have to figure out what works for you through trial and error. 

However, according to researchers, 300–600 mg of CBD has been shown to produce therapeutic effects on individuals with anxiety.

Ideally, you should speak to your doctor before trying CBD. They can help you find the right dosage by considering individual factors such as:

  • Weight 
  • Treatment goals 
  • Body chemistry 
  • Existing health conditions 

There are different types of CBD products, each with its own route of administration. Examples include: 

  • CBD oils: CBD oil is an extract diluted in a carrier oil such as hemp or coconut oil.
  • Vapes: Battery-operated devices that heat CBD oil and transform it into a vapor that is inhaled.
  • Topicals: These include creams, lotions, and ointments that contain CBD.
  • Pills: This form of CBD comes in tablets, capsules, and soft gels.
  • Gummies: CBD gummies are flavored, chewy candies that are infused with CBD.
  • Sprays: Liquid CBD that comes in a bottle with a spray nozzle. They can be topical, oral, or nasal sprays.
  • Edibles: Food or drinks that contain CBD as an ingredient. 

The route of CBD administration determines how fast you will feel the effects. For example, vaping CBD may produce a faster effect than taking it orally. This is because the vapor goes directly to the lungs and enters the bloodstream quickly. 

Vaping may provide fast relief from panic attacks, which usually start suddenly and last between five and twenty minutes. However, vaping CBD is not without its risks. A 2023 animal study discovered that inhaling CBD vapor can induce a strong inflammatory response and pathological changes associated with lung injury.

Side effects of CBD

CBD is well-tolerated in most individuals. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBD can cause the following side effects.

  • Drowsiness 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Liver injuries 
  • Mood changes and irritability

Precautions to take when using CBD for panic attacks or anxiety

If you intend to use CBD for panic attacks or anxiety, you should: 

  • Speak to a doctor first: CBD interacts with certain medications, including antidepressants. If you’re currently taking any antidepressants (or any other medication), it’s important to talk to your doctor before using CBD. 
  • Understand the types of CBD: There are different types of CBD products. Some contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, while others don’t. 
  • Buy from reputable brands: Most CBD products are not regulated by the FDA. As a result, there are many substandard and mislabeled products on the market. Buy from brands that follow best practices and regularly submit their products for third-party testing.  
  • Start slow: Start with a low dose of CBD, especially if you’re using it for the first time. You can gradually increase your dosage over time until you find the right dose for your needs. 
  • Watch for side effects: If you notice any severe side effects after you start using CBD, discontinue and consult your doctor to discuss potential adjustments to your dosage or other treatment options. 
  • Consider local laws: In the United States, hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC is legal at the federal level. However, state laws regarding CBD vary. Always check if CBD is legal where you live before using it. 

Speaking with a doctor

Book an appointment with your primary healthcare provider if you experience panic attacks and anxiety symptoms that disrupt your daily life. 

Your doctor will help you explore treatment options and determine if it’s safe for you to use CBD. They may advise against using CBD if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have liver disease.