Anxiety disorders have the highest lifetime prevalence of any mental illness worldwide, leading to high societal costs and economic burden. Current pharmacotherapies for anxiety disorders are associated with adverse effects and low efficacy. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a constituent of the Cannabis plant, which has potential therapeutic properties for various indications. After the recent legalization of cannabis, CBD has drawn increased attention as a potential treatment, as the majority of existing data suggest it is safe, well tolerated, has few adverse effects, and demonstrates no potential for abuse or dependence in humans. Pre-clinical research using animal models of innate fear and anxiety-like behaviors have found anxiolytic, antistress, anticompulsive, and panicolytic-like effects of CBD. Preliminary evidence from human trials using both healthy volunteers and individuals with social anxiety disorder, suggests that CBD may have anxiolytic effects. Although these findings are promising, future research is warranted to determine the efficacy of CBD in other anxiety disorders, establish appropriate doses, and determine its long-term efficacy. The majority of pre-clinical and clinical research has been conducted using males only. Among individuals with anxiety disorders, the prevalence rates, symptomology, and treatment response differ between males and females. Thus, future research should focus on this area due to the lack of research in females and the knowledge gap on sex and gender differences in the effectiveness of CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety.
Keywords: CBD; cannabinoids; cannabis; clinical trials; mental illness.