Xanax is one of the best-known drugs in the benzodiazepines family. Benzodiazepines are frequently used for 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 understudied. However, CBD has garnered much attention as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders in recent years.
So, could CBD replace Xanax as one of the most popular anti-anxiety remedies? Let’s take a look.
Xanax: What Is It?
Xanax is the proprietary name for the drug alprazolam. It was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981 and has been a frequently-prescribed medication ever since.
Alprazolam is indicated in anxiety and panic disorder treatment but 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 take 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. BNZ-2 receptors influence muscle relaxation, have anticonvulsant activity, and affect 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 combined with other drugs that suppress the central nervous system, such as 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 several 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!
Yet, this was only the beginning of the escalation. A United States National Center for Health Statistics report indicates that benzodiazepine drugs were prescribed to patients in 27% of ALL visits to an office-based doctor between 2014 and 2016.
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 it a highly addictive substance that should be used with extreme caution.
It is easy to develop tolerance to Xanax, meaning that users must keep increasing their dose to achieve the same effects.
If someone is taking Xanax and wants to stop, they will need to wean off their medication gradually, or else they may experience withdrawals. The most common of these is “rebound symptoms,” a worsening of the problems for which the person took Xanax in the first place.
Xanax can cause withdrawals if the user stops taking it quickly. It’s important to reduce intake gradually.
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 showing promise is cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD.
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CBD: What Is It?
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 the user high. However, it is believed to have calming properties and may help relieve conditions such as stress and anxiety.
Because CBD is non-intoxicating, it is currently legal in most 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:
Preparations such as vape juice may be especially helpful for people suffering from anxiety or panic disorder as CBD works much faster when vaporized than 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. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked to 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 one needs to take depends on several different factors. These include genetics, body weight, how severe the condition is, and what brand and strength of CBD are chosen.
As a general rule, we suggest starting with the absolute minimum dose of CBD and increasing it gradually as necessary. This method will help the user find the lowest dose with therapeutic value, reduce the risk of negative side effects, and avoid waste.
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
CBD vs. Xanax: Is Cannabidiol a Viable Replacement?
The rate of addiction to benzodiazepine drugs is growing at a frightening rate. A study published in Psychiatric Services in 2019 looked into benzodiazepine use and misuse among American adults. The researchers found that over 30 million adults in the United States reported past-year benzodiazepine use. Moreover, 1-in-6 adults admitted overusing this class of drug.
In contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that CBD has a good safety profile. There is no evidence that the cannabinoid leads to addiction. In fact, CBD has been investigated for its anti-addiction properties.
Although the research so far is somewhat inconclusive, it has been suggested that CBD could help reduce stress and cravings for people 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.
Ultimately, most people use Xanax because it provides powerful calming effects quickly. Proponents of CBD point out that the cannabinoid also has a relaxing effect. Furthermore, one can feel the effects within minutes if using CBD oil and within seconds if vaping the substance.
In essence, CBD’s ability to somewhat replicate the benefits of Xanax without the side effects or potential for addiction makes it a realistic alternative. However, further research into CBD is needed before drawing any conclusions.
How Does CBD Interact with Xanax?
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.
Anyone using Xanax that is interested in replacing it with CBD should discuss the matter in-depth with a physician who can help with a safe transition.
How Long After Using CBD Can Someone Take Xanax?
Given that CBD interacts with Xanax and could result in adverse side effects, it is wise to avoid using them together. Ideally, an individual will not consume both drugs. However, those that combine them should space out the dosing schedule and reduce the dosage of one if not both.
There is no hard and fast rule on how long to wait between using CBD and Xanax. While some sites suggest leaving at least three hours between consuming the drugs, there is no scientific evidence to suggest it is a sufficient gap.
Users should leave a small gap between consuming CBD and Xanax. There are no set rules, so it’s vital to exercise caution.
Alternatively, those who use CBD could avoid edibles such as gummies and try CBD vape products since they aren’t metabolized in the liver. Top-rated brands such as PureKana, Joy Organics, and cbdMD sell a wide array of such products.
Overall, though, it is best to avoid using both drugs if at all possible. Also, please avoid using CBD, Xanax, and alcohol, as this practice massively increases the risk of dangerous side effects.
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 option such as CBD. However, it is essential to make the switch under close medical supervision to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms.
While CBD has promise, it is not FDA-approved. Therefore, sellers of the cannabinoid cannot claim it cures, treats, prevents, or diagnoses any medical condition. Avoid brands that make any such suggestions.