Carl Esprey is CEO of Botanical Holdings, which focuses on investment in the legal cannabis sector.
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat all kinds of illnesses. Ancient China used it for menstrual issues, constipation and gout while in Medieval times it was used to treat pain and nausea. Until 1970, it was used for lots of illnesses in the US. And then the federal government declared it illegal and said it had no medicinal value.
Today medical cannabis is becoming more viable as countries and states move to legalise it. Lots of attention is now on CBD (cannabidiol) and how it can be used to treat a number of issues, including anxiety and depression. CBD is one of around 70 compounds derived from cannabis, and does not make people high, nor alter consciousness. To date, a number of scientific publications have found some clinical evidence of using CBD to treat neuropsychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and schizophrenia. However, few clinical studies have been undertaken.
CBD and anxiety: consumers buy products to treat anxiety and insomnia
This slow acceptance of CBD as a potential treatment for common mental health issues such as insomnia and anxiety is gaining traction. Consumers are already buying CBD oil, edibles and other products to treat anxiety and depression. For example, a 2019 Gallup poll found that 14% of Americans use CBD products for various reasons.
Around 20% use CBD oil to treat anxiety and 11% for insomnia, with 40% citing pain relief as their main reason for using CBD products. According to the poll, the highest number of CBD users are between 18 and 29 (20%) with the over 65s age group coming in at 8%.
Among people using CBD, about 40% use them for pain relief but more women than men use the products for anxiety relief (25% and 14% respectively). Conversely, more men than women use CBD products to treat insomnia (15% and 8% respectively). And now a landmark US study has just been announced to investigate its potential as a medical anxiety treatment.
New study is the first of its kind
The study is labelled “the first of its kind” and is called The Cannabinoid Anxiety Relief Education Study (CARES). It aims to reach millions of American people who use medical cannabis and CBD to assess its true potential as an anti-anxiety treatment. It will also cover conditions that generally go along with anxiety, such as depression and insomnia.
One of the important points to note is that this research will be on a massive scale. Announced on 1 October 2020, its importance is highlighted due to the increase in nationwide (and worldwide) anxiety levels due to the global pandemic. A number of states in America and local Governments have bumped up the accessibility of cannabis at this time.
Funded by the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation (WREF) and managed by the UC Institute for Prediction Technology (UCIPT) and the University of California. The co-founder of WREF Pelin Thorogood believes that the pandemic has pushed the American market for CBD and cannabis through the roof. He says: “Tens of millions of Americans [are] turning to CBD and cannabis for anxiety relief.”
The world has a mental health crisis
Because of the rapidly rising interest in CBD with people around the world, the need for more controlled clinical trials in the efficacy of the cannabis derivative is growing. Real world data (RWD) at a massive scale is vital to gather the information from actual real-time users, so that product developers can provide what’s needed.
And the CARES study aims to do exactly that, and at the same time establish a foundation for others to follow with further trials. As CEO of a relatively new holding company in the medical cannabis space, I’m keen to see as many mass data surveys to extract the information needed to continue unleashing the potential of this sector.
While medical use of CBD and other cannabis derivatives are equally useful, the idea that we can find concrete evidence to support its efficacy in helping people with anxiety is hugely important. The World Economic Forum (WEF) says that the world is in crisis over mental health and that this crisis has been exacerbated by COVOD-19.
At the start of the year, the DAVOS WEF conference had a message and that was that it’s time to invest in the world’s mental health. And that was before the pandemic changed the way we live and work. Estimates show 284 million people worldwide suffering from anxiety and 265 million from depression. Among young people, (between 15 and 29), suicide is the second leading cause of death.
With statistics like this, and with continuing uncertainty due to the pandemic, these figures will only get worse. The medical cannabis sector could have an enormous role to play in providing new treatments for these issues. But not without many more clinical trials.
Studies that gather data in order to understand beliefs, behaviours, consumer attitudes and the efficacy of CBD for mental health issues are particularly welcome. The CARES study will analyse data on the type of CBD products users are buying, and information on the frequency and timing of use, delivery methods and whether they work. Data points that will also be gathered include alcohol use and medication, so that an overall picture of CBD and cannabis use during this difficult time can be properly analysed.