Mental Health

Can CBD help panic attacks?

Panic attacks are more common than many of the non sufferers realize. Even people who say they have never suffered from a panic attack may have actually had a mild panic attack and swept it under the rug to be forgotten about. There is an large and worrying ongoing mental health crisis in the world that people are only beginning to take notice of and soon, hopefully, action. We believe being open about panic attacks, acknowledging them and taking preventive actions like slow release CBD capsules throughout the day, or using a tinctures with high CBD levels onto the tongue for a more immediate effect may be one answer for anyone suffering from panic attacks and wanting a natural solution.

Many UK people going about their daily lives live with panic issues unbeknown to many of the family, co-workers and friends.  Covid has helped bring this to the fore and mental health and well being was third in a survey of what people see as priority after Covid behind the Health service and the economic recovery.

PTSD has been given a lot of news over the last decade and sufferers encouraged to look for help.

Traditional medicine for panic attacks

Some conditions such as anxiety and a generalized panic disorder, PTSD, are successfully treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

However, many are resistant to these pharmaceutical medications and continue to suffer. A natural remedy like CBD should be the simple answer if we can get the government and the general acceptance of the public maybe CBD can help everyone. CBD is not an opioid and that alone means it deserves exploration as a alternative as a treatment for panic attacks.

What exactly are panic attacks?

Panic attacks are episodes of fear and worry, that include various physical symptoms and imagined feelings or induced worry, even without any material reason. People feel anxious to open mail, read an email or check their bank balance for fear there is something there to hurt them or make them feel anxious. The fear of what we may find is often worse then the actual problem, by helping people overcome anxiety for an issue we can reduce the need to worry and indeed reduce overall panic attacks.

Researchers have identified pathways, chemicals and nerves in the brain that control these emotions like serotonin. What’s more interesting is that CBD can directly influence these pathways. Sometimes it is by helping reduce the heart rate and by relaxing it is helping people take that larger breath, maybe it's allowing them a nights sleep without thinking of random worrying scenarios that may happen at work or during the next day with friends and family.

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While more research needs to be conducted, recent clinical studies support the use of CBD oil for panic attacks because of its high-efficacy in dealing with anxiety.

Let's dig in panic attack symptoms a little further?

As we stated above, panic attacks are episodes of debilitating anxiety and fear. These may begin without any trigger or warning which is what makes it such an intensely debilitating condition.

They can be confused with life-threatening conditions like heart attacks due to their intensity. On average, attacks last ten minutes or less.

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Common symptoms of panic attacks may include:

  • Shortness of breath – common for many suffering from panic attacks.
  • Nausea – less common but an intense symptom.
  • Loss of appetite – worry often cause over or under eating habits.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded – again less common but can be dangerous depending on your occupation.
  • Palpitations and increased heart rate, very common and experienced by many every day.
  • Cold Sweats, often at night or before taking action.
  • Anxious when waking, lack of sleep is a factor in many illnesses
  • Chest pain and tightness, worrying and you should see a doctor if it is intense, painful or it persists.

Where to turn for help if you have a panic attack?

Alternative medicines including natural remedies are a growing field of interest to everyone both young and old but met with scepticism due to the lack of research to back up the beliefs of many. Herbs and herb gatherers have collected and used cannabis as far back as the early 18th century when it was a common place medicine, with hemp leaves often seen in old black and white photographs of dispensaries.

For a long time, lobbyists and mainstream pharmaceuticals have held sway and industrial chemicals have been displayed as the best option for patients. However, they are now interested in finding alternative solutions for mental health concerns that do not involve opioids. Natural ingredients without chemicals feel like they should be our first port of call, the cannabis plant and hemp plant in particular is one such potential solution.

The number one and most likely winner we believe is CBD (cannabidiol) is now one of the most talked about on social media and becoming a sought after avenues of treatment for a wide variety of mental health conditions. CBD oil for anxiety and stress is becoming more and more popular with every passing day.

Risk factors for panic disorder

Generally, panic disorder symptoms can start at any time and often is more in line with the events of life at that stage of your life. For some it will start in late teens or early 20s. As with most mental health conditions, females are more likely to be diagnosed with panic disorder than men, only due to being able to talk to close friends who help then and encourage them to seek help.

While the direct causes of panic disorders are not entirely understood, some factors may increase the risk, including but not limited to:

  • Large debts
  • Loss of a job or social standing or a loved one
  • Family history of similar effects.
  • Significant trauma
  • Divorce
  • Smoking or excessive caffeine or other stimulants


Panic disorder

The United Kingdom has less clinical trials but anecdotal evidence points to at least similar levels as the US which is believed to have 20-3% of the population suffering from panic attacks.

Some people may have mild  anxiety or are fortunate and will only experience one or two panic attacks in their lives. Others who are less fortunate may have numerous attacks throughout their life, sometimes several a month. Work stress is one factor often attributed to the anxiety but imagined or real issues are a larger factor, what will my mum think, will I lose my home, what will I do when the credit card statement comes and I have no way to clear it, all these are real issues people face and can bring on an attack.

A person who suffers a frequent number of attacks is referred to as having a panic disorder. Our role as humans is to help people cope is key, doctors can prescribe what they believe is best and high street solutions like CBD capsules or cbd tinctures can be taken at intervals during the day and oral sprays which have faster effect can be used when more immediate relief is needed as a means of reducing the panic attacks.

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In addition to the symptoms, an affected person will often also continually worry about having another episode, they tend to worry about the next attack or episope and may even bring in on through worry, or even change their behaviours as a result to avoid being around work or friends to save face.

As an example – a person might avoid social gatherings or public speaking. This can be due to the fear they could have of having an attack in public and the embarrassment they may feel about having an attack. For some, this is the worst symptom and means less hope of a friend knowing and maybe helping then get assistance.

Mainstream treatments of panic attacks and panic disorder

The current standard medical industry treatment for those suffering panic disorders are long-term SSRIs or anti-anxiety medications. These can be moderately effective they commonly cause numerous side effects and many are not comfortable and fear addiction like opiods.

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Less than half of all people with panic disorder resolve their panic attacks through these medications.

What this means is that new treatments and approaches are needed to solve the problem.

CBD oil for panic attacks

CBD is a natural product and is rising in popularity among those seeking better approaches for medical conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety symptoms, and sleep issues.

Right now, research is being conducted in the UK and around the world into all the potential health benefits of CBD products. This includes the use of CBD oil for panic attacks, and other prevalent mental health disorders.

Fear is one of the most prominent symptoms of panic disorder. Also, it’s common for people with panic attacks to take anti-anxiety medications. This means that managing stress is an integral part of treating panic attacks.

Can using cannabis cause panic attacks?

It is commonly understood that the intake of cannabis can create high levels of paranoia, and panic attacks.

This is in part due to cannabis’s THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants that can instil a ‘sense of euphoria’.

CBD (cannabidiol) is like THC in that it is also a cannabinoid, but unlike THC it does not create any psychoactive effects in the brain.

Cannabis and cannabidiol – Let's look at the differences

On the surface, they appear the same, but cannabis and CBD products are actually derived from different strains of the cannabis Sativa plant. Each strain has a different make up of the 113 cannabinoids, some have high THC “weed” and other high CBD, often called hemp.

CBD oil UK retail products are created using the industrial hemp plant, which contains trace amounts to zero THC.

Some CBD products are created using a purified CBD called ‘CBD isolate often sold wholesale’. This isolate contains practically no THC at all.

A growing body of evidence supports the idea that CBD (cannabidiol) may be effective for  panic-related disorders.

How CBD oil can help fight panic attacks

Research is still being carried out on exactly how CBD works in the brain and how it affects panic attacks.

Two systems were found in the brain which are likely to be a big part of why people have a positive outcome using CBD oil for panic attacks:

  • Serotonin receptors
  • Endocannabinoid system

1 – Serotonin receptors

These transmit messages through the brain and are responsible for our moods.  In animal testing, serotonin receptors (5-HT1a) were activated by cannabinoids (great results for those looking to endorse CBD) in several parts of the brain. By helping people feel better we take one step towards a less anxious individual and small steps will help reduce panic attacks.

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SSRI drugs are used to target the same areas. And these, as we’ve mentioned before, are the most commonly used medications by people with panic attacks.

These studies found that CBD was effective in reducing the amount of panic in animals.

2 – The endocannabinoid system

The cannabinoids in CBD, including anandamide, stimulate CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.

These receptors are found throughout our brains and bodies and are involved in emotions, behaviours, memory, decision making, pain, and inflammation.

If receptors can be stimulated with CBD oil, there is a marked difference in their fear responses. Many people in these fields are optimistic about potential future outcomes. By utilizing what we know from science we can try and isolate what in the hemp plant can (if at all) help people suffering from the panic attacks, it will take further research but is something the cannabis industry is moving towards.

Researching  CBD oil for panic attacks

The research on CBD and how it affects mental health and mood disorders is just beginning.

Up to now most research on CBD for panic attacks has been conducted on animals.

However, there are several human and animal studies that support the anxiolytic-like effect of CBD in other mental health conditions.

A clinical trial on using CBD for social anxiety disorder (SAD) found that CBD can reduce panic and affects the activity of the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain.

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These two areas are connected to fear and emotions.

Other human studies have found that lower levels of the cannabinoid anandamide are associated with PTSD. Much like panic disorder, people with PTSD also experience panic attacks.

This suggests to the researchers that the use of CBD decreases fear and panic levels. It may also help reduce other effects of panic disorder.

CBD and UK authorities and FDA approval

Let’s get one thing out of the way – cannabis-derived products containing certain THC are illegal and restricted in the UK and also at the federal level in the U.S. Hence CBD isolate with non detectable THC is often the best solution, make sure the product contains less the 1mg  THC at all times.

But there’s a lot more fine print, too.

Because CBD products contain only trace amounts of THC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale and use of them in the United States.

The FDA also approved a prescription CBD product, Epidolex, for certain types of treatment-resistant seizures.

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It’s likely that the FDA will see fit to approve more CBD-based drugs as positive CBD findings continue to be published.

At the moment the FDA does not regulate CBD based drugs. While it means a greater deal of access in some cases it also means that lower-quality products are more likely to make their way into the hands of people who need quality medication.

As a consumer, you need to make sure that any CBD products you purchase come from a company using third-party testing. This ensures a safer, more high-quality product you can place your trust in.

The EU legal bodies in Italy and France have recently stated that CBD and in particular CBD flower cant be considered a narcotic, we see this as a huge step towards the full opening of the hemp market i the UK and worldwide.

Closing remarks on CBD for panic attacks

If you suffer from panic attacks and are not finding relief with current treatment options, you may be able to help your condition using CBD oil. While it’s not for everyone, the results can be powerful. You can try the various ways of taking cannabidiol like CBD vape oil, CBD edibles, CBD acne creams or CBD tinctures.

Remember to always speak with your doctor before embarking on any new medical treatment and do not stop taking your prescribed medication in favour of CBD unless told to by your doctor.

Jon Cosgrave

Jon is a content writer and copywriter. When not grappling with words, he grapples at jiu-jitsu. His fingers are in constant agony.

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