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Drug study

Study To Compare CBD to THC and Xanax Should Be No Contest

A clinical study on CBD involving humans (not lab animals) is expected to be completed in May. The purpose of the study is to “evaluate the abuse potential of CBD to determine whether it should remain as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, or be recommended for decontrol.”

The study, which sports the extensive title of, “A Human Abuse Potential Study to Evaluate the Subjective and Physiological Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) Compared to Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Alprazolam in an Inpatient Setting,” is sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

According to, this study is a “single-dose, randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled crossover study that evaluates CBD in comparison with THC, alprazolam [Xanax], and placebo in healthy recreational drug users.”

There are a few things of immediate importance here. The first is that there have been very few clinical trials on humans in regards to CBD’s effects on particular disorders, so this is welcome news. Second, there have been even fewer studies into CBD’s potential for abuse and addiction.

And the third thing of importance is the researchers’ stated goal of determining “whether [CBD] should remain a Schedule I drug…”

Now, it’s not perfectly clear that CBD from hemp is actually considered a Schedule I drug. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether this study will actually have much influence on the debate. However...

What Is Alprazolam?

Alprazolam is more commonly known under its trade name, Xanax. It is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and defined by the National Institute of Health as “a triazolobenzodiazepine compound with antianxiety and sedative-hypnotic actions, that is efficacious in the treatment of PANIC DISORDERS, with or without AGORAPHOBIA, and in generalized ANXIETY DISORDERS.” (Emphasis theirs.)

The data goes on to describe the effects of the drug:

“These drugs slow normal brain function, which may result in slurred speech, shallow breathing, sluggishness, fatigue, disorientation and lack of coordination or dilated pupils. Higher doses cause impaired memory, judgment and coordination; irritability; paranoia; and thoughts of suicide. Some people can become agitated or aggressive. Using prescription sedatives and tranquilizers with other substances — particularly alcohol — can slow breathing, or slow both the heart and respiration, and possibly lead to death.

Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers work by slowing the brain’s activity. When a patient stops taking them, there can be serious withdrawal effects such as seizures. The page goes on to state:

“Continued use can lead to physical dependence and — when use is reduced or stopped abruptly — withdrawal symptoms may occur… Tolerance to the drug’s effects can also occur, meaning that larger doses are needed to achieve similar effects as those experienced initially. This may lead users to take higher doses and risk the occurrence of an overdose.”

And furthermore:

"Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers can become addictive, meaning a person continues to take these drugs despite their harmful consequences.”

Another risk is the increased rate of suicide.

According to Wikipedia, alprazolam was the 12th most prescribed medicine in the United States in 2010. The drug was released by Upjohn (now a part of Pfizer) in 1981 and was first approved for treatment of panic disorder. Within two years, Xanax became a “blockbuster” drug in the US.

To put things in perspective, here is a list of the drug’s effects:\

  • Anterograde amnesia
  • Concentration problems
  • Ataxia, slurred speech
  • Disinhibition
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Unsteadiness/impaired coordination
  • Suicidal ideation or suicide

And, although unusual, the following paradoxical reactions have been shown to occur:

  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Rage
  • Hostility

How Does Alprazolam Compare To THC and CBD?

It’s interesting to note that while THC, the third drug in this study, shares many of these same side effects as Xanax, THC is also known to induce feelings of anxiety in users.

CBD, on the other hand, sometimes induces drowsiness in some people (most notably those who need more sleep), and also dry mouth is also occasionally reported. That’s it. CBD oil is completely non-toxic, is extremely well tolerated, and it does not cause dependence nor require gradual weaning off to end treatment.

Can THC or CBD Help To Treat Anxiety?

Most research on cannabinoids has focused on the effects of marijuana and THC rather than CBD oil. Some studies suggest that using marijuana can make a person more vulnerable to anxiety. And many “newbie” marijuana smokers report feelings of anxiety and paranoia. CBD oil, on the other hand, appears to do just the opposite. It appears to have antioxidant properties and reduces symptoms of anxiety.

Research done with animal models shows promising results. A study done in 2014 showed that CBD oil had not only anti-anxiety but also antidepressant effects.

A human study done in 2010 reported that CBD oil reduced symptoms in patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Brain scans of participants done as part of the study revealed changes in blood flow to regions of the brain linked to anxiety.

Another study was done in 2011, which looked at CBD’s effects on anxiety associated with public speaking, also backed up those results.

And a 2015 analysis of previous studies concluded that CBD oil may provide relief for numerous forms of anxiety, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If the results in these and other studies are backed up by this new study, it’s hard to see how any serious scientist could determine that CBD should remain a Schedule I substance. It would seem that even if it only has slight benefits, considering its safety and lack of side effects, CBD should not even be listed as a Schedule IV drug, never mind Schedule I. On the contrary, CBD should eventually be approved by the FDA and also covered by health insurance. From our perspective, it seems that day is coming sooner or later.