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Could Cannabidiol be a treatment for COVID-19-related anxiety disorders?
  • Saoirse O'Sullivan,
  • Carl Stevenson,
  • Steven Laviolette
Saoirse O'Sullivan
Artelo Biosciences
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Carl Stevenson
University of Nottingham
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Steven Laviolette
University of Western Ontario
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COVID-19-related anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) or disorder (PTSD) are likely to be a significant long-term issue emerging from the current pandemic. We hypothesise that cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical isolated from Cannabis Sativa with reported anxiolytic properties, could be a therapeutic option for the treatment of COVID-19-related anxiety disorders. In the global over-the-counter CBD market, anxiety, stress, depression and sleep disorders are consistently the top reasons people use CBD. In small randomised, controlled clinical trials, CBD reduces anxiety in healthy volunteers, patients with social anxiety disorder, those at clinical high risk of psychosis, in patients with Parkinson’s disease, and in individuals with heroin use disorder. Case reports and series support these findings, extending to patients with anxiety and sleep disorders, Crohn’s disease, depression and in PTSD. Preclinical studies reveal the molecular targets of CBD in these indications as the cannabinoid receptors type 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) receptors (mainly in fear memory processing), serotonin 5HT1a receptors (mainly in anxiolysis) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) (mainly in the underpinning anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant effects). Observational and preclinical data also support CBD’s therapeutic value in improving sleep (increased sleep duration/quality and reduction in nightmares) and depression, often comorbid with anxiety. Together these features of CBD to reduce anxiety and depression, and improve sleep disturbances, could be an attractive novel therapeutic option in relieving COVID-related post-traumatic stress symptoms.