If you’ve been using Xanax (alprazolam) for anxiety and want to get off it and switch to something else, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is likely an option you’ve considered.
The question is, does CBD work for anxiety? And is it a viable alternative for those who have been using Xanax for anxiety?
At Natural Ways CBD, we’ve helped thousands of people find natural alternatives to prescriptions they’re taking for anxiety, pain, sleep, and other things.
We can say firsthand that CBD may be a viable alternative to Xanax in some scenarios — but it really depends.
In this article, we’ll discuss how CBD and Xanax stack up to each other for addressing anxiety, and well as provide some guidance about when each solution may be the best for you. We’ll also answer questions about using the two together.
RELATED: CBD vs. Zoloft for Anxiety
What is Xanax?
Alprazolam is a medication used for treating anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax is the brand name of the most common alprazolam medication (we’ll use the two interchangeably).
Xanax belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines (or “benzos”). Benzodiazepines act on the brain and central nervous system to create a calming effect.
Xanax is the most-prescribed psychiatric medication in the United States, most of these prescriptions being for anxiety and related disorders.
How Xanax Works for Anxiety
When taken, Xanax increases the levels of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter, in your brain.
GABA produces a calming effect by blocking specific signals in your central nervous system and brain. Increased GABA levels are associated with a decrease in feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.
Xanax, by increasing GABA levels, helps prevent your body from overreacting to stressful situations, thereby preventing anxiety and panic attacks.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound that naturally occurs in the hemp plant. It’s one of more than 100+ cannabinoids found in hemp, and it has a wide variety of potential therapeutic applications.
Research suggests CBD may help with anxiety, with one study concluding that CBD has major potential as a treatment for many anxiety disorders.
Anecdotally, our customers use CBD for general anxiety, social anxiety disorders, and panic attacks.
How CBD Works for Anxiety
Scientists have several explanations of how CBD may work for anxiety, but what we do know for sure is that CBD interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a transmitter system in your body that controls most of your vital functions, including how you feel.
CBD is thought to restore balance to the ECS and help it perform its function, with the idea being that a well-balanced ECS is associated with lower levels of anxiety and other mentally distressing feelings.
Research also suggests that CBD works for anxiety by impacting the transmission of serotonin, which, like GABA, is a neurotransmitter.
Higher serotonin levels are associated with feelings of calm, focus, emotional stability, and happiness.
CBD may cause serotonin to stay in between the nerve endings in your brain for longer than normal, thereby prompting an improvement in the way you feel.
Through a mix of supporting your body’s natural processes and altering neurotransmitter movement in the brain, research suggests CBD may have therapeutic potential for anxiety.
CBD vs. Xanax: How Do They Make You Feel?
Xanax is not psychoactive and does not create a psychoactive effect as, say, delta 9 THC might. Instead, most people who use Xanax report that it has calming, relaxing, and tiring effects.
CBD, on the other hand, has a calming effect much milder than that of Xanax. In comparison to other cannabinoids, as well as many prescription medications, the effects of CBD are relatively subtle.
Instead, most people who use CBD for anxiety say that it makes the anxiety feel “less important,” and makes anxious feelings easier to ignore.
While CBD and Xanax both render calming effects, Xanax’s effects are much, much stronger than CBD’s.
Xanax for Anxiety: Pros, Cons, and When It’s a Good Option
Clearly, Xanax has many potential benefits. But it also has it’s downsides. Here are the pros and cons of using Xanax for anxiety:
Pros of Xanax for Anxiety
- Very powerful – Although Xanax isn’t necessarily psychoactive, it is known to create strongly relaxing, sedating, and calming effects that are effective for reducing feelings of anxiety.
- Science-backed – Xanax is backed by a slew of preclinical and clinical studies proving its efficacy at treating anxiety.
Cons of Xanax for Anxiety
- May be addictive – In the right doses, Xanax may reduce anxiety and improve quality of life. However, it’s also very addictive if used improperly. And if you’re addicted, your tolerance for it will build quickly, to the point you have to take 20-30 pills daily to avoid feeling withdrawal effects.
- Causes withdrawal side effects – Even if you’re not addicted to Xanax, it may create withdrawal symptoms. According to American Addiction Centers, if patients stop Xanax after just 3 weeks of use, they may feel side effects including (but not limited to) anxiety, panic attacks, hyperventilation, tremors, muscle spasms, sleep problems, and hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch.
- Adverse side effects – Just as quitting Xanax may cause negative side effects, so too will using it. Xanax may cause a number of potential adverse effects, including (but again, not limited to) loss of muscle control in the arms and legs (ataxia), cognitive dysfunction, constipation, drowsiness, fatigue, dysarthria (difficulty speaking as a result of speech muscles becoming week), and memory impairment.
- Requires a prescription – Unlike with CBD, you typically can’t buy Xanax over-the-counter, and will need a prescription to attain it.
When Xanax Is A Good Option
Because of its powerful effects and wide range of potential adverse effects, the only time when using Xanax is a good option is when it’s been prescribed to you by your doctor.
Xanax is typically prescribed for short-term use to address severe forms of anxiety that can’t be treated with other medicines or supplements.
CBD for Anxiety: Pros, Cons, and When It’s a Good Option
CBD may have therapeutic potential for anxiety, but it isn’t always a viable replacement for prescription medications. Here are the pros and cons of CBD for anxiety.
Pros of CBD for Anxiety
- Research-backed – Multiple studies suggest CBD has potential as an anxiety treatment, and anecdotal evidence indicates it may be very effective at addressing anxiety. However, the amount of research backing the benefits of CBD is less than the amount backing Xanax, so it’s a less proven solution.
- Has fewer side effects than many prescriptions – The potential side effects of CBD include dry mouth, drowsiness, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and fatigue. Compared to the side effects of Xanax, these effects are very minimal (and often won’t be felt, assuming you take the right amount).
- No prescription is needed – CBD is an over-the-counter natural health supplement, so it’s great if you’re experiencing milder anxiety that you wouldn’t see a doctor for.
- Not psychoactive – CBD is not psychoactive, and it won’t get you high. It also won’t reduce cognitive functioning and create mental impairment as Xanax can.
Cons of CBD for Anxiety
- Poorly regulated – The CBD industry isn’t regulated by the FDA as the pharmaceutical industry is, and the vast majority of products you’ll find online and in-store have not been evaluated by clinical trials. While this doesn’t preclude the creation of safe, high-quality CBD products, it doesn’t enforce it. As a result, poor-quality products abound.
- May interact with prescriptions – CBD may affect how your body metabolizes certain medications, including Xanax. As a result, using CBD together with some prescription medications may create side effects such as sleepiness, fatigue, and even falls and accidents while driving, according to Harvard Health.
- Not legal in all states – CBD may not be legal in every state in the US, and as a result, you might have trouble legally purchasing and using it.
When CBD May Be a Good Option
CBD doesn’t render effects as strong as Xanax, so it’s generally best for milder anxiety disorders. It’s also a good option if you’re looking for a sustainable solution against anxiety because it doesn’t have the addiction and general health risks that Xanax poses.
Can You Switch from Xanax to CBD?
Many people have successfully replaced Xanax with CBD. Some users have been able to make a full transition, while others report that CBD helped them reduce the amount of Xanax they were taking to an amount that doesn’t put them at risk for addiction or dependency.
If you’re going to stop using Xanax and begin using CBD, it’s important to speak to your doctor first. You shouldn’t “cold-turkey” Xanax; rather, you’ll have to slowly wean yourself off of it.
CBD is not a one-to-one replacement for Xanax, as its effects are different, and it likely won’t be of much use during your withdrawal period. However, CBD may provide the long-term support necessary to live a good-quality life without needing to turn to prescription medicines like Xanax – or without having to worry about developing an addiction.
Can You Take CBD and Xanax Together?
Using CBD may help you reduce the amount of Xanax you need. However, the two substances should not be taken together.
Taking CBD with Xanax can increase side effects such as tiredness, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Some people, especially elderly people, may also experience decreases in motor coordination, thinking, and judgment.
To avoid these side effects, ensure that you take CBD and Xanax at least 3-4 hours apart. However, we always recommend asking your doctor before taking CBD and Xanax together.
Conclusion: Is CBD a Viable Replacement for Xanax?
Although Xanax is more proven than CBD for treating anxiety, it has a slew of harsh side effects that mean it may not be the best option for long-term use. CBD, on the other hand, has weaker effects but may still render therapeutic potential for anxiety without the risk of addiction.
After talking with your doctor, you may decide that CBD is a viable replacement, and can do the same things without a fraction of the downsides.
Ready to get started with CBD? Be sure to check out our CBD dosage guide, calculator, and chart.
You won’t find weak, ineffective, or dangerous products here. Only high-strength, American-made CBD products that have been 3rd-party lab tested. You deserve better.
CBD vs. Xanax: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions customers frequently ask us about CBD and Xanax.
How long after taking CBD can you take Xanax?
Although you should speak to your doctor first before using CBD and Xanax together, the general advice is to wait at least 3 hours after you take CBD to take Xanax.
Is there a CBD like Xanax?
No type of CBD will closely resemble the effects of Xanax. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that full-spectrum CBD, which contains trace amounts of cannabinoids like THC, CBG, CBN, and CBC, is the most effective for anxiety.
Does CBD help with anxiety while high?
Taking CBD may reduce the potential side effects of paranoia and anxiety that THC can cause. This is a result of the entourage effect, which is an idea that says cannabinoids work best when used together.