Xanax is one of the most well-known drugs in a family known as benzodiazepines. These medications are frequently used for conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder but have a high potential for addiction and abuse.
Despite this, Xanax continues to be routinely prescribed, while safer alternatives such as CBD remain on the Controlled Substances list. However, CBD has garnered much attention in recent years as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. It may even benefit people who are addicted to other drugs.
So, could CBD replace Xanax as one of the most popular anti-anxiety remedies? Let’s take a look.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is the proprietary name for the drug alprazolam, a member of the benzodiazepine family. It was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) way back in 1981 and has been a popular medication ever since.
Alprazolam is indicated in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorder, but it is often misused by people looking for a quick high. One of the major issues surrounding Xanax is its addictive nature. The FDA recommends that it only be prescribed for “short term relief of symptoms,” but in reality, many people end up taking Xanax for much longer than they should.
How Does Xanax Work?
The exact mechanism of Xanax and how it affects the brain is still not fully understood. However, it is believed to influence several cell receptors in the central nervous system, including BNZ-1, BNZ-2, and GABA-A receptors.
BNZ-1 receptors have a sedative, anti-anxiety effect, while BNZ-2 receptors influence muscle relaxation and have anticonvulsant activity, as well as affecting memory and coordination. GABA-A receptors are associated with the neurotransmitter GABA, which inhibits excitation in the central nervous system to bring about feelings of calm.
The recommended Xanax dosage varies from person to person but usually begins at 0.25mg daily and goes up to a maximum of 4mg daily. The recommended dosage for panic disorders is generally higher than that for anxiety.
Dosages of Xanax over 0.75mg daily are associated with an increased risk of side effects and addiction.
Xanax Side Effects
Xanax has become one of the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepines as it is thought to cause fewer adverse effects than other medications in this drug class. However, side effects are still common and may include:
- Abnormal, uncoordinated movement
- Memory problems
- Slurred speech
- Dry mouth
If an overdose of Xanax is taken, other serious side effects may occur. These may include confusion, seizures, coma, and even death. The risk of overdosing on Xanax is significantly increased when it is combined with other drugs that suppress the central nervous system, for example, opioids or alcohol.
Xanax can also interact with several other drugs, including the antifungal medications ketoconazole and itraconazole. Taking these drugs alongside Xanax could significantly increase the risk of overdose.
Xanax has been linked with a number of celebrity deaths including Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, and Whitney Houston. Despite this, benzodiazepines like Xanax continue to be routinely prescribed. In fact, between 1996 and 2013, benzodiazepine prescriptions increased by a shocking 67%, rising from 8.1 to 13.5 million per year!
The Link Between Xanax and Addiction
As well as affecting the neurotransmitter GABA, Xanax is thought to interact with dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This makes alprazolam a highly addictive substance and one which should be used with extreme caution.
It is easy to develop tolerance to Xanax, meaning that you need to keep increasing your dose to achieve the same effects. If you are taking Xanax and want to stop, you will need to wean off your medication gradually, or you may experience withdrawals. The most common of these is ‘rebound symptoms,’ a worsening of the problems for which you took Xanax in the first place.
Due to the feelings of relaxation and calm that it induces, some people even use Xanax recreationally. This worrying trend is another reason why Xanax is so addictive and dangerous. People who use Xanax recreationally may keep increasing their dose to gain the same high, thus increasing the risk of adverse effects.
With all of its associated risks, it is little wonder that many people are now seeking more natural methods of relieving their anxiety. One remedy which is showing promise is cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD.
What is CBD?
CBD is a major cannabinoid, one of the active compounds found in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating and will not get you high. However, it is believed to have calming properties and may help to relieve conditions such as stress and anxiety.
Because CBD is non-intoxicating, it is currently legal in the majority of places, providing that it is extracted from hemp containing less than 0.3% THC. It is most often used in the form of an oil which is taken by allowing it to dissolve under the tongue. However, CBD is now available in a wide range of forms, including:
- Vape juice
Preparations such as vape juice may be especially helpful for people suffering from anxiety or panic disorder as CBD works much faster when vaporized compared with taking it orally.
How Does CBD Work for Anxiety?
CBD works by influencing the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system comprises cell receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors; chemicals called endocannabinoids, and enzymes. Its function is to maintain a state of homeostasis (internal balance) in an ever-changing external environment.
One of the best-studied endocannabinoids is a compound known as anandamide. Anandamide has been nicknamed the ‘bliss molecule’ thanks to its calming effects on the nervous system. It is believed that anandamide levels in the body increase under stressful circumstances and help us to keep our cool.
One of the ways that CBD might help with anxiety is by slowing the rate at which the body reabsorbs anandamide. CBD is also thought to affect serotonin receptors, and as you may know, serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked to the feelings of happiness and well-being.
Although research into CBD for anxiety is ongoing, the results from preliminary studies are incredibly positive overall. For example, one well-known study found that CBD helped patients with social anxiety disorder stay calm during a simulated public speaking exercise.
CBD Dosage for Anxiety
The dosage of CBD that you will need to take depends on several different factors. These include your genetics, body weight, and how severe your condition is, as well as what brand and strength of CBD you choose.
As a general rule, we suggest you start with the absolute minimum dose of CBD and increase it gradually as necessary. This method will help you to find the lowest dose that has therapeutic value and reduce the risk of negative side effects as well as avoiding wastage.
CBD Side Effects
CBD is considered safe and does not usually cause serious side effects. However, it is possible to have some unpleasant reactions after taking CBD. Some of the most common CBD side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Red eyes
- Feelings of euphoria
Can CBD Help Xanax Addiction?
As well as helping to curb the symptoms of anxiety, CBD has also been investigated for its anti-addiction properties. Although the research so far is somewhat inconclusive, it has been suggested that CBD could help to reduce stress and cravings for people who are trying to come off addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol. If confirmed, this would mean that CBD could be a useful tool for battling Xanax addictions in the future.
Can You Take CBD and Xanax Together?
Both CBD and Xanax are metabolized in the liver by what is known as the CYP450 pathway. This means that taking the two together could increase the bioavailability of Xanax and increase the risk of overdose.
If you are taking Xanax and are interested in replacing it with CBD, be sure to discuss this in depth with your physician who will help you to make the transition safely.
Can CBD Replace Xanax? Final Thoughts
Xanax is a popular medication, but it is certainly not without risks. Although it is thought to cause fewer side effects than other benzodiazepines, the risk of addiction and overdose is still high. The drug is especially dangerous when used recreationally or mixed with alcohol or opioids.
With so many potential hazards, it is no wonder that many people suffering from anxiety or panic disorder would prefer to try a more natural treatment such as CBD. However, it essential to make the switch under close medical supervision to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms.
We hope you found this article entertaining and educational. However, we are not doctors, and you should not take any of this information as medical advice. Always speak to your physician before making changes to your medication to ensure that you stay safe and symptom-free.