Evaluating cannabidiol (CBD) expectancy effects on acute stress and anxiety in healthy adults: a randomized crossover study
Rationale: Cannabidiol (CBD) has been reported to attenuate stress and anxiety, but little is known about the extent to which such effects result from pharmacological versus expectancy factors.
Objectives: We evaluated whether CBD expectancy alone could influence stress, anxiety, and mood, and the extent to which beliefs regarding CBD effects predicted these responses.
Methods: In this randomized crossover study, 43 health adults (23 women) attended two experimental laboratory sessions, where they self-administered CBD-free hempseed oil sublingually. During one session, they were (incorrectly) informed that the oil contained CBD and in the other session, that the oil was CBD-free. Following administration, participants engaged in the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST). Heart rate variability (HRV) was assessed continuously, and subjective state was assessed at baseline, 90-min following oil administration, immediately following the MAST, and after a 10-min recovery period.
Results: The CBD expectancy condition was associated with increased sedation as well as with changes in HRV that were consistent with heightened anticipatory stress regulation. Overall, there were no systematic changes in subjective stress, or anxiety, according to expectancy condition. However, participants who endorsed strong a priori beliefs that CBD has anxiolytic properties reported significantly diminished anxiety in the CBD expectancy condition.
Conclusions: CBD expectancy alone impacted several subjective and physiological responses. Additionally, expectancy-related factors were implicated in anxiolytic effects of CBD for those who believed it was helpful for such purposes, emphasizing the need to measure and control for CBD-related expectancies in clinical research that involves the administration of CBD.
Keywords: Affect; Anxiety; Anxiolytic; CBD; Cannabidiol; Cannabis; Expectancy; Placebo; Stress; Subjective response.