Could Cannabidiol Be a Treatment for Coronavirus Disease-19-Related Anxiety Disorders?

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Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19)-related anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are likely to be a significant long-term issue emerging from the current pandemic. We hypothesize that cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical isolated from Cannabis sativa with reported anxiolytic properties, could be a therapeutic option for the treatment of COVID-19-related anxiety disorders. In the global over-the-counter CBD market, anxiety, stress, depression, and sleep disorders are consistently the top reasons people use CBD. In small randomized controlled clinical trials, CBD (300-800 mg) reduces anxiety in healthy volunteers, patients with social anxiety disorder, those at clinical high risk of psychosis, in patients with Parkinson’s disease, and in individuals with heroin use disorder. Observational studies and case reports support these findings, extending to patients with anxiety and sleep disorders, Crohn’s disease, depression, and in PTSD. Larger ongoing trials in this area continue to add to this evidence base with relevant patient cohorts, sample sizes, and clinical end-points. Pre-clinical studies reveal the molecular targets of CBD in these indications as the cannabinoid receptor type 1 and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (mainly in fear memory processing), serotonin 1A receptor (mainly in anxiolysis) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (mainly in the underpinning anti-inflammatory/antioxidant effects). Observational and pre-clinical data also support CBD’s therapeutic value in improving sleep (increased sleep duration/quality and reduction in nightmares) and depression, which are often comorbid with anxiety. Together these features of CBD make it an attractive novel therapeutic option in COVID-related PTSS that merits investigation and testing through appropriately designed randomized controlled trials.

Keywords: COVID-19; PTSD; anxiety; cannabidiol; sleep.

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