Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System in Anxiety, Depression, and Dysregulation of Emotion in Humans

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2020 Jan;33(1):20-42. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000562.

Abstract

Purpose of review: This review is to summarize most recent evidence published in the last 18 months on medical and recreational use of cannabis and cannabinoids in relation to anxiety, depression (unipolar and bipolar), and dysregulation of emotions as part of posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and emotionally instable personality disorders. It also covers the investigation of endocannabinoids as potential biomarkers in these conditions. This is important with increasing medicinal use of cannabinoids and growing social tolerance towards recreational cannabis use.

Recent findings: There is some recent evidence suggesting cannabinoids, cannabidiol or cannabidiol-enriched cannabis preparations have anxiolytic properties. In addition, depression may be worsened by cannabis use, however, randomized controlled trials (RCT) are lacking. New evidence also suggests that cannabidiol or cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use for PTSD and emotion regulation can induce hyporesponse to fear and stress. Further, several lines of evidence point to the endocannabinoid system as a key player in some of the reviewed disorders, in particular anxiety and PTSD.

Summary: The most recent evidence for a therapeutic use of cannabinoids in the reviewed conditions is weak and lacking well designed RCTs. However, there is some indication of the role of the endocannabinoid system in these conditions that warrant further studies.