Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionMarijuana (Cannabinoids)

Cannabidiol to reduce anxiety of public speaking

Generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a common anxiety condition. Cannabidiol is one major non-psychotomimetic compound of the cannabis sativa plant.

Researchers at the University of São Paulo, in Brazil, studied its effects on SAD during a simulation public speaking test.

First, the details.

  • 24 otherwise healthy people with SAD who were never treated were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
    • Pretreatment with cannabidiol 600 mg given as a capsule 90 minutes before the test
    • Placebo in an identical appearing capsule
    • Healthy control group (a separate group of 12 people) performed the simulation public speaking test without receiving medication.
  • Subjective ratings on the Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) and Negative Self-Statement scale (SSPS-N) and physiological measures (blood pressure, heart rate, and skin conductance) were measured 6 times during the simulation public speaking test.
  • The dose was based on previous studies.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • Cannabidiol
    • Pretreating with cannabidiol significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment (decision making), and discomfort in speech performance compared to baseline levels.
    • It also significantly decreased alertness in anticipatory speech.
  • The placebo group
    • Presented with higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels compared with the control group as assessed with the VAMS.
    • SSPS-N scores showed significant increases during testing of the placebo group
      • These scores were almost abolished in those taking cannabidiol.
  • Healthy controls
    • No significant differences were observed between cannabidiol and healthy controls in SSPS-N scores or in the cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert factors of VAMS.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “The increase in anxiety induced by the simulation public speaking test on subjects with SAD was reduced with the use of cannabidiol, resulting in a similar response as the healthy controls.”

Fear of public speaking is a cardinal manifestation of SAD, and the idea of making a presentation in public is the No. 1 fear reported by people in the U.S.”  Those who suffer most over speaking in public get more anxious — not less anxious — as their presentation gets under way. And when it’s over, instead of feeling relief, they feel even more anxious. More on fear of public speaking is here.

The results of this study are impressive because the benefits of a single dose of cannabidiol were achieved rapidly.

Other treatments for SAD include drugs (beta-blockers, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines) and psychological counseling. It will be interesting to see how cannabidiol compares with these options.

8/22/12 10:51 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.