Psychological disorders, such as anxiety and others, are at the forefront of health problems in the population of Spain, which is currently the largest consumer of benzodiazepines (anxiolytics and antidepressants), ahead of the United States. In this article we tell you everything you need to know about how to treat anxiety without abusing these substances, which are not at all harmless to health.
The Organization of Consumers and Users denounces the alarming situation regarding the growth in the consumption of benzodiazepines in Spain, pointing out that these psychotropic drugs have important side effects and a high risk of dependence.
Psychotropic drugs treat increasingly common disorders such as depression, anxiety or insomnia, among others. They are effective in the short term but, in the long term, they are harmful to health: in addition to creating dependence, they are not always the best treatment, as we will see below. There are other alternatives for the treatment of these disorders, and CBD and its benefits are emerging as one of the best options.
Mental health problems are on the rise
Before the pandemic, around 20% of Spaniards were undergoing psychological treatment; afterwards, more than 40% of the population has visited a psychologist for anxiety problems and more than 30% for depression.
More than a third of Spaniards have a mental health problem. The most frequent are Common Mental Disorders: anxiety, depression and somatization; although others such as eating disorders or behavioral disorders continue to increase, as well as suicide attempts. Particularly alarming is the increase in mental health problems in the child and adolescent population, according to the Spanish Sociological Research Center.
On the other hand, according to the Ministry of Health, since 2018 almost half of the consultations at the family doctor are related to psychoemotional problems.
This increase in mental health consultations has increased the prescription and consumption of psychotropic drugs, which may seem an effective solution in the short term, but in the long run, neither solve the problem nor are harmless to the patient's health.
The precarious situation of the public health system, the lack of attention to mental health and the effects of the pandemic have generated an increase in psychological problems and an abuse of psychotropic drugs in the general population. It is urgent to seek and explore other solutions to this problem, since the increased use of these drugs is yet another sign of what is known as the medicalization of life, the use of drugs to solve all people's problems.
Pills are not the best or the only option
People with anxiety problems, insomnia and other disorders are often unaware of and perhaps even reject options other than drugs. However, not all profiles and cases require this pharmacological treatment.
Cases of mild anxiety should be treated with psychological therapy, a much more harmless option for patients, but one that is increasingly less viable due, among other factors, to the lack of mental health specialists. Treating the source of anxiety is much more convenient than treating only its symptoms.
The same is true for patients with problems related to insomnia and lack of sleep, where measures known as sleep hygiene could be a healthier alternative in a large number of cases. To this end, it is necessary to teach people to put into practice a series of recommendations for sleep education:
- Stable schedules for going to bed and getting up.
- No stimulating substances in the afternoon (caffeine, sugar...) and no electronic devices at night.
- No more than 8 hours in bed.
- Naps of 20 or 30 minutes at most.
- Moderate exercise daily.
- Appropriate night environment (no excessive lighting or noise).
In addition, other relaxation and wellness techniques have proven to be effective for the treatment of psychological disorders and to improve general health, as discussed in the post in the link.
CBD to reduce anxiety
One of the resources we have to naturally reduce anxiety and/or sleep better is cannabidiol or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound obtained from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It has been shown in numerous preclinical and clinical studies to have a great capacity to improve stress and anxiety and to induce sleep and make it deeper. By reducing cortisol levels, CBD solves anxiety and nighttime rest problems naturally, without drugs.
In addition, its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antalgic (pain relief) properties are a very relevant complement to the aforementioned sedative properties.
Several clinical studies in patients with social anxiety disorders found that CBD reduced anxiety levels with single doses of 400 or 600 mg. In addition, several brain imaging studies revealed that CBD alters blood flow in the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and cingulate cortex, four brain structures involved in anxiety. On the other hand, several animal studies indicate that CBD can also reduce panic and compulsive behaviors.
In addition, CBD has been widely shown to reduce sleep problems and insomnia by acting as a muscle relaxant and reducing anxiety. In fact, the US National Library of Medicine reports in a research study the firm conclusion that CBD improved sleep parameters in 66% of cases during the first month, and that it reduced anxiety by 79%, effects that were maintained in the long term.
CBD is not addictive and has no side effects
Finally and very important: no side effects have been found in the use of CBD. This is because it does not generate tolerance in the organism, according to the CANNA Foundation, for scientific research and analysis of the Cannabis Sativa plant. This means that, once the appropriate dose is identified in each case (and as long as the symptoms do not increase due to factors external to the treatment), the effects will be the same and you will not need to increase the dose progressively to continue obtaining the same result, as is the case with psychotropic drugs, the main reason for their addictive effect. On the other hand, CBD is not addictive, as it does not contain THC, as is the case with marijuana.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), CBD in its pure state neither causes harm nor has negative consequences for health, even in high doses.
Even so, if you take benzodiazepines and want to start taking CBD to reduce the use of psychotropic drugs, it is important to see a doctor and have his supervision and monitoring.
It is for all these reasons that, as a treatment for anxiety and other disorders such as stress or insomnia, CBD is an alternative to treatment with psychotropic drugs, in order to reduce the level of consumption of these drugs, which, far from being harmless, can lead to severe chronification and dependence in the long term.
Further clinical research will be necessary to obtain more information on how the endocannabinoid system acts, since a better understanding of this system will definitely open the door to new therapeutic strategies for this type of pathologies and for people's general wellbeing.