CBD vs. Antidepressants: A Comprehensive Comparison


A brief look at various forums, online articles and people around us reveals a high prevalence of anxiety, stress and depression. In fact, depression alone is a major problem affecting more than 264 million people in the world. Previously, the sole medication that was used for the management of such symptoms was antidepressants. However, more recently, CBD oil has come up and has been touted as a natural remedy to help in cases of depression and anxiety.

In this article, the author tries to explain what sets CBD apart from common antidepressants when it comes to mental health. We discuss its function, efficacy, toxicity and adverse effects for both. Read on to discover which one may be more suitable for you and/or your specific situation.

What are the Effects of Getting High and How Do Antidepressants and CBD Function?

First, there is the issue of the mechanism of action of antidepressant drugs as opposed to CBD oil.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants are psychotropic medications which are used for the treatment of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders and some other kinds of disorders. There are several main types:There are several main types:

Antidepressant drugs such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), sertraline (Zoloft) and escitalopram (Lexapro). Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are thought to exert their action through inhibition of reuptake of serotonin thereby increasing the concentration of serotonin in the brain.

Some of the common SSRI include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa while the SNRIs include Cymbalta, Effexor XR. As discussed earlier, SNRIs work not only on serotonin but also on norepinephrine.

Non-SSRI antidepressant that has different impact on neurotransmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine and others. Some of the examples include Wellbutrin (bupropion), Remeron (mirtazapine), Tritellix.

In general, as for their action most of the common antidepressants act by changing the concentration of chemical messengers in the brain which in turn affects the mood and emotions of the person. These chemicals need to be applied daily for weeks and sometimes months before the desired effects are achieved.

CBD oil is considered effective in the treatment of various diseases due to the presence of active components referred to as cannabinoids that act with a central psychoactive.

While antidepressants are chemical drugs, CBD or cannabidiol is an organic extract from various species of the cannabis plant. CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid produced from the cannabis plant and the marijuana plant after THC.

CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signaling system that regulates an array of vital functions:CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signaling system that regulates an array of vital functions:

  • Immune response
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Motor control
  • Mood
  • Memory

CBD indirectly influences the ECS receptors in various ways depending on its interaction with the body as established by different studies. Consequently, this may help to reduce the effects of pain, anxiety, seizure disorders, nerve disorders and so on. CBD’s onset of actions can act within minutes to hours after intake depending on the dose, method of administration and the body’s metabolic system.

Antidepressants and CBD work similarly in that they both help to reduce symptoms of depression, but they have vastly different modes of operation.

Treatment Method | Mode of Operation | When Outcomes Are Noticed | How Often The Treatment Is Administered

Antidepressants | Change the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and other neurotransmitter chemicals | Weeks to months | Daily and regular intake of the drugs

CBD Oil | Causes the ECS to release its receptors which are responsible for influencing mood, pain, sleep, etc | Takes between minutes and hours | This may range from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the user.

Antidepressants vs CBD: Lamotrigine is a drug used in the treatment of epilepsy, bipolar affective disorder and recently depression, so it would therefore be logical to classify its use for depression as effective.

For those who experience mental health disorders, it is unclear whether to take regular antidepressants or consume natural CBD. But how does CBD oil stack up to these medicines, or do antidepressants fare even worse than the oil? What does it bring out according to current research?

Results from multiple studies indicate CBD does show promise for significantly improving depressive symptoms alone or combined with traditional medication:Results from multiple studies indicate CBD does show promise for significantly improving depressive symptoms alone or combined with traditional medication:

  • In a large 2021 meta-analysis in CNS Drugs, 14 clinical trials were reviewed on high-quality cannabinoids and depression. CBD was found to have a pro-depressant equivalent to the ‘SSRIs’, including Zoloft, Lexapro and Prozac.
  • Another 2021 Clinical Medicine Insights: The Psychiatry analysis also suggested that CBD possesses strong neuropharmacological profiles like antidepressants for major depressive disorder through neuroimaging studies and human trials.
  • This was further supported by a similar 2020 study on Seasonal Affective Disorder where CBD reduced both depressive and anxiety symptoms significantly during the tests with public speaking scenarios.
  • A 2019 clinical trial in a small sample of participants showed that using CBD oil for eight weeks reduced the depressive rating by approximately 43 percent and also enhanced the mood and sleep in 22 of 30 patients.

Researchers state that such initial findings are highly encouraging but also stress that more extensive research is required on CBD as the treatment for clinical depression. At the present time, the data appear to indicate that CBD might be beneficial when used together with conventional pharmaceutical antidepressants recommended by a mental health professional.

When it comes to effectiveness for anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety or PTSD, CBD also shows significant promise based on a compilation of studies:When it comes to effectiveness for anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety or PTSD, CBD also shows significant promise based on a compilation of studies:

  • Numerous clinical trials have been conducted wherein the subjects have used both brain imaging and self-report questionnaires to assess symptoms and changes reported that they experienced decreased levels of anxiety and fear after using CBD oil. Specifically, increased parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system activity can help decrease stress response.
  • A placebo-controlled study in persons with Social Anxiety Disorder who undertook a speaking simulation public speaking test indicated that pre-test CBD administration reduced anxiety, cognitive deficits and discomfort with a single dose.
  • A review of 72 patients who underwent CBD treatment for five weeks resulted in reduced anxiety scores by 79% on average and enhanced sleep score by 67%.

For any mental health condition, effectiveness and ideal protocols using CBD can vary substantially based on:For any mental health condition, effectiveness and ideal protocols using CBD can vary substantially based on:

  • Daily intake per person (5mg – 300mg +)
  • Delivery method — edibles, capsules, Cartridges/ concentrates, ointments
  • CBD to THC proportion
  • The severity of one’s sick role
  • CBD oil: does it make sense to take it consistently?
  • In addition, the physical and chemical condition of the organism and its readiness.

Moreover, some people might have an ‘adaptation effect’ where the impact of CBD reduces slightly with time, even if the dosage has remained constant. It is also relevant to note that with a regular increase in the dose or during the “drug holiday”, the results are kept stable.

In the long term, more clinical trials are currently present, but the existing data suggests that CBD can be a highly beneficial supplement or even complete replacement for antidepressant medications for certain people. However, be careful about switching from antidepressants to CBD entirely without first talking to a professional.

Side Effects: Antidepressants are a class of drugs that are generally prescribed to patients suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, and many other conditions that affect the mental health of an individual.

The other factor to look at is the side effects and safety of CBD and other antidepressants.

Side effects of common antidepressants

While often lifesaving tools for many people, even mainstream healthcare providers admit the most prescribed antidepressants carry numerous potential adverse effects including:While often lifesaving tools for many people, even mainstream healthcare providers admit the most prescribed antidepressants carry numerous potential adverse effects including:

Most Common Side Effects:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness/Agitation
  • Insomnia and consequently daytime fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Impotence, a lack of sexual desire or interest in sex

Additionally, antidepressants have FDA “black box warnings” around elevated risks for:Additionally, antidepressants have FDA “black box warnings” around elevated risks for:

  • The study reveals that there is a worsening of depression symptoms or suicide ideation (especially, those below twenty-five years old).
  • Serotonin syndrome when used concurrently with other substances that may affect serotonin levels.
  • Withdrawing from the substance (dizziness, flu like symptoms, changes in the sensations and movement).

Last of all, some people experience changes in their emotional system of feeling in a way where antidepressants minimize general feelings including the positive ones.

What are the risks of taking CBD oil?

Compared to other classes of antidepressants, CBD is very safe when taken in a supplemental or alternative modality. Largely, the World Health Organization states that CBD has practically no potential for misuse or dependency and is well tolerated in the majority of patients.

Reported mild side effects include:Reported mild side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Alterations in eating habits (generally, decreased appetite because of reduced metabolism rate by CBD)
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Some of the side effects that have been reported by some users include anxiety, increased heartbeat, and headaches, but only a few of the users who responded positively to this supplement experienced it when they took high doses of the substance, and the problem disappeared when they reduced the quantity to be taken daily.

CBD Oil has one of the most extensive lists of drug interactions among all CBD products with 80% of it having the capability to interact with a given drug.

However, like any other antidepressant drugs, CBD is not without its risks, as it can interfere with other medications through the cytochrome P-450 drug metabolism system. In particular, dose adjustments may be required if you are taking:In particular, dose adjustments may be required if you are taking:

  • Blood thinners
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Beta blockers
  • SSRIs
  • SNRIs

Please first seek medical advice from your doctor as to whether or not it is safe to use CBD oil along with any other prescribed medication and use the dosages sparingly. Also ensure to use quality CBD products from well-established CBD companies who conduct third party lab testing on their products to determine their potency and quality.

CBD oil benefits compared to antidepressants side effects CBD Oil Vs Antidepressants Side Effects: In summary,

All in all, studies to the current point out that CBD faces significantly fewer side effects, is less likely to become a person’s dependency, and interacts well with medications than the prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. But as mentioned, lack of FDA regulation also comes with the test of quality and formulations of CBD which can result in fluctuations in both the benefits and side effects in case of a poor choice of products.

Antidepressants vs CBD Oil: Antidepressants or Counseling: What is More Effective for Treating Anxiety and Depression?

But I bet you are wondering what is the final decision or recommendation? Which is more effective – CBD  or antidepressants – in cases of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders?

While more studies are still needed, here are some key takeaways:While more studies are still needed, here are some key takeaways:

  1. Based on the present studies, the most appropriate approach to complementary medicine seems to be the use of antidepressants in conjunction with moderate to severe clinical depression with CBD oil. Stay very engaged with your mental health therapist.
  2. It has been seen that for patients with mild to moderate anxiety or depressive episodes, CBD oil by itself may be effective, based on several researches. In terms of dosage, it can be widely varying depending on the intensity of the symptoms, which might result in the necessity to try out different doses.
  3. CBD oil is safer in comparison with the most antidepressant medications because it has a small number of interactions with other medications and fewer side effects. But this means that the quality of CBD varies and, therefore, the effects you get when using a new brand of CBD product with a low quality profile will also vary.
  4. Importantly, it seems that both CBD and conventional antidepressants are quite similar in terms of the effectiveness of enhancing anxiety disorders. cbd also could significantly improve the quality of sleep, which is crucial to maintaining mental health.
  5. Some people just get better with CBD extract rather than normal antidepressants and some get better with the regular antidepressants rather than the extract. Current opinion regarding the use of CBD is still divided, but many psychiatrists believe in gradually changing for the better under the supervision of a doctor.
  6. It is important to note that one should never discontinue the intake of prescribed antidepressants without first seeking the doctor’s advice since this can trigger withdrawal symptoms.
  7. It takes time and effort to make progress and ensure that your habits, routines, and behaviors are stable and do not fluctuate. Moderate to severe anxiety / depression patients may start experiencing benefits for the use of CBD oil after days to weeks.

Therefore, according to current literature, it can be stated that CBD oil can be considered at least an addition of high potential value in treating depressive and anxious patients along with conventional mental health interventions. Or perhaps even as an antidepressant alternative given the individual biochemistry and efficacy of the substance.

It is also essential to know if you have ever used CBD oil as a remedy for mood disorders and stress. What do you think about the use of CBD compared to other medications in your personal experience? Please share your thoughts below.

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