Anxiety is a common ailment that cannabis consumers are looking to address. Many folks are also interested in how cannabis can be used to enhance social experiences.
For some consumers, these two wellness-oriented goals overlap, causing them to seek out cannabidiol (CBD) for anxiety relief in social contexts. While there is mixed evidence available in current scientific literature regarding the use of CBD for social anxiety, the evidence in support suggests that CBD might be worth exploring.
In this article, we’ll break down what social anxiety is and how it can impact your life. We’ll also examine the evidence for and against using CBD to treat social anxiety, as well as the best ways to use CBD for social anxiety should you choose to do so.
“Social anxieties and fears exist along continua of intensity, ranging from the helpful and adaptive (e.g., keeping one on one’s ‘social toes’ in uncertain social situations) to the disabling and impairing (e.g., being unable to develop or maintain close relationships in spite of loneliness),” researchers Daniel McNeil and Cameron Randall write.
At one end of the spectrum are experiences like stage fright and shyness — feelings that almost everyone has encountered at some point in their life.
On the other end, social anxiety can become debilitating to the point where it has an extreme, negative impact on one’s ability to hold a job or meet the demands of modern life.
It’s at this point that an individual’s experience of social anxiety might be diagnosed as Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
According to the Mayo Clinic, the diagnostic criteria for SAD include:
It’s important to note that a distinguishing factor for SAD, as well as for other psychological ailments that present in a wide range of degrees of intensity, is a clear and even dramatic negative impact of a person’s symptoms on their everyday life.
While cannabis has shown some promise in treating anxiety of various kinds, SAD might call for a multi-pronged approach to treatment involving therapy and pharmaceutical medication in addition to any cannabis-based products the patient finds helpful. Please consult with a medical professional if you are concerned that you have SAD.
Current studies demonstrate that there are a variety of wellness-enhancing outcomes for people who consume CBD. CBD is best for acute experiences of anxiety within the context of a broader diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder or SAD, according to one review published in early 2020.
“CBD has consistently demonstrated acute reduction in anxiety-related symptoms in patients, specifically within [Generalized Anxiety Disorder] and SAD,” the authors conclude.
“Additionally, the use of CBD for these disorders has shown increasingly minimal adverse effects compared with existing pharmacotherapy,” they state. “Further studies are needed to determine long-term safety and efficacy of CBD products and a more standardized dose-effect response.”
To be clear, the authors do note limitations to the studies included in their review — primarily that they rely on small sample sizes of adult males.
With that in mind, the findings remain promising for cannabis consumers seeking a potential solution to their struggle with social anxiety, especially as future studies go on to explore, for example, different dosing levels and strategies.
One additional study, also published in 2019 and not included in the review above, examined the results of administering 300 mg of CBD oil to a cohort of 37 teenagers in Japan who had a SAD diagnosis.
The results of the study “indicate that intervention with CBD for a 4-week period reduced the level of symptoms in teenagers with SAD,” the study’s author asserts.
The author adds that the reduction in SAD symptoms through the use of CBD was “almost equivalent” to the results produced by paroxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders, “although the treatment groups studied in the two studies were not closely compatible.”
If the evidence presented above suggests that CBD might help with your social anxiety, your next steps include finding the right product and dosing practices, noting and minimizing any side effects, and keeping yourself on the right side of the law when purchasing cannabis products.
Selecting the appropriate product from the myriad of CBD-infused options available can be challenging, and understanding your specific needs is important.
Let’s lay out a few essential components for a CBD product intended to treat social anxiety. If the current studies are accurate, it seems that larger doses of CBD are most effective. Therefore, your product of choice should allow you to administer a large dose with ease. This criterion might rule out low-dose CBD-infused drinkable products, for example.
Also important — especially if you're worried about experiencing stigma related to any cannabis consumption, even if it's non-intoxicating — is discretion. The less equipment you need for consumption and the less odor you produce, the better. Under these conditions, we can rule out products that require smoking or vaping.
Last, your product should ideally be fast-acting — you don’t want to sit around waiting for an edible to kick in.
Perhaps the most ideal product for treating your social anxiety with CBD is an infused tincture. CBD tinctures are widely available with either alcohol and glycerin liquid bases. They’re also easy to use (just put a few drops under your tongue and wait), and, best of all, extremely discreet. Tinctures also act more quickly than edibles.
According to the 2019 review referenced above, the most common side effects of consuming CBD for social anxiety are “fatigue and sedation,” though the authors do state that the cannabinoid was “generally well-tolerated and associated with minimal adverse effects” in the studies under review.
If you do find yourself feeling fatigued or sedated and believe CBD to be the cause, there are steps you can take to prevent those side effects from reoccurring. First, you can try decreasing your dose to find the minimum dose of CBD you need to achieve the desired effects.
Second, you should make sure you’re consuming a high-quality CBD product. CBD is not yet fully regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but there is a massive, unregulated market for CBD products in the form of gummies, tinctures, topicals, and so on, as well as for traditional cannabis flower containing only CBD.
How is this CBD market legal? Thanks to the Agricultural Improvement Act, more commonly referred to as the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp — i.e., cannabis with less than 0.3% THC by dry weight — is no longer illegal at the federal level.
Due to the lack of oversight regarding dosing, quality, and purity, it's important to make sure you’re getting your CBD products from a well-vetted, reputable source. You can read more about finding the right CBD products for your wellness needs in this guide from Jointly.
Jointly is the cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and shop the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences from hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.
With Jointly, you can shop your top-rated products, and save lists of your favorites to share and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
The Jointly app also helps you improve your cannabis experiences by uncovering what’s working and what’s not with reflections and personalized insights. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your cannabis experience.
So if you're ready to find your best products and enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.