CBD vs Xanax – Which is Better for Anxiety?


For years, Xanax was the go-to treatment for anxiety. Medical professionals note its efficacy in acute symptom reduction, but not without drawbacks. Xanax, a benzodiazepine, is highly addictive. More and more people abuse these prescription pills every day. Multiple cases even result in overdose, especially when mixed with other drugs. Even in less severe instances, withdrawal from chronic Xanax use can cause the same anxiety it’s designed to treat.

CBD has emerged in health and wellness  medical as an alternative to treat anxiety. It’s widely regarded in the medical community as safe, despite research being relatively new. But is CBD an effective alternative to Xanax?

While you should always discuss treatment with your doctor, we’re here to offer some insight on the debate over CBD vs Xanax for anxiety. But first, let’s talk about what causes anxiety in the first place.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an adaptive stress response designed to be useful. It helps us get out of harm’s way or better prepare for performance. However, it’s detrimental when severe. Panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, and are all clinically recognized in psychology as disorders. Daily, regularly elevated anxiety has started to permeate modern society. Its effects run from racing thoughts and stomach discomfort to paralyzing fear and shortness of breath. Whatever the cause, anxiety is a very real public health issue.

Causes Of Anxiety In Modern Society

While predisposal to anxiety can be genetic, the modern way of life contributes to its widespread infection. Financial struggles provide stress to support your family. Our constant connection to work through technology leaves no time to relax. A culture of comparison through social media finds many feeling left behind. As people turn to drugs to self-medicate, addiction runs rampant, yielding even more anxiety and depression than before.

According to research, people feel a sense of responsibility when facing uncertainty. Our nervous system reacts by engaging the amygdala and hippocampus. Originally, these two brain centers activated to signal harmful stimuli and decide what to do about it. Unfortunately, they now light up constantly, activating a pervasive stress response. What was once a protective mechanism has become potentially harmful.


What can we do about it?

Historically, doctor’s prescribed Xanax and other benzodiazepines to combat symptoms. Antidepressants are also FDA approved for anxiety, and therefore are regularly part of treatment. Both come with their share of side effects, however, so a third option has come to light – CBD.


CBD For Anxiety

CBD, or cannabidiol, binds to receptors within the body that regulate all kinds of bodily processes. It modulates the shape of GABA receptors, which mimics the pharmacology of Xanax. Similarly, it activates 5-HT receptors to elevate serotonin, the happiness molecule. Most antidepressants are SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Again, CBD acts on the same systems as traditional anxiety treatment. As it binds to dopamine receptors as well, it disinhibits synapses in the brain to act as an antipsychotic. Since antipsychotic drugs are indicated for anxiety treatment in some cases, CBD wins yet again.

According to research in Neurotherapeutics, acute dosing of CBD can be anxiolytic in humans. In rats, various doses of CBD were administered prior to entering a stress-inducing maze. Lower doses decreased anxiety, but once they reached the highest dose of 20mg/kg, effects dissipated. These results suggest that smaller doses of CBD combat anxiety in the short-term. To learn more about the benefits of CBD, watch this short video.


Xanax For Anxiety

Xanax binds to receptors of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that stops nervous signaling. While it’s not 100% clear why it works for anxiety and depression, Xanax and other benzos help sedate patients out of their symptoms. Calming and anti-epileptic effects can be therapeutic for patients in active psychosis, seizure, or panic. However, chronic use of Xanax is highly addictive. As it’s one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs, exhibit caution with regular use. As always, this does not constitute medical advice, so consult with a physician first and foremost.


CBD Side Effects

As of now, CBD shows little to know side effects. Those with a strong sensitivity to THC might feel negative effects from full-spectrum hemp oils, or CBD pulled from marijuana. Other uncommon side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.


Xanax Side Effects

The most dangerous side effect of Xanax is addiction. Benzo addiction causes chronic impairment of function, which interrupts daily lifestyle and can ruin relationships. Other side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Sleep issues
  • Appetite problems
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Swelling in the extremities
  • Blurred vision

Non-pharmacological solutions – Exercise to relieve anxiety

We’d be remiss to leave out exercise as a treatment for anxiety. While both CBD and Xanax can limit symptoms, exercise targets anxiety naturally. Aerobic exercise that incorporates large muscle groups improve moods by modulating endorphins. It also elevated body temperature and circulation to the brain, impacting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. These interactions reduce stress on their own.

Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies confirm that regular exercise defends against stress. Daily exercise is associated with higher sensation-seeking, lower neuroticism, and reduced depression and anxiety. Other potential mechanisms include distraction, cognitive dissonance, and improved self-confidence. Studies recommend 15-10 minutes of rhythmic exercise at least three times a week. High-intensity exercise, however, reduced fear of negative physical sensations, so look for more research there.

Overall, exercise offers best effects when included alongside medication, such as antidepressants or CBD. On their own, antidepressants seem more effective. So talk to your doctor about changing your medication and exercise habits combined.


The Great Debate – CBD vs Xanax – Which is better?

While both provide short-term anxiety relief, Xanax has a much stronger clinical background. That’s because it’s permeated medical interventions for decades. CBD, on the other hand, is a new player. The deregulation of cannabis had yielded wider research on CBD, but only in the past decade or so. It’s still a promising intervention, as early research confirms efficacy, but it doesn’t come with the solid proof of Xanax.

Unfortunately, the risks of Xanax outweigh its benefits. In the short term, medical professionals may use Xanax to quell immediate panic attacks and severe agitation. But long-term prescription toes the line of addiction.

Can I mix CBD oil with Xanax?

Taking both at the same time potentially muddies effects. CBD changes the shape of Xanax receptors, therefore increasing side effect risk.

The verdict? Take Xanax for immediate relief of very severe symptoms, only under the guidance of a medical professional. For chronic anxiety, CBD is a much safer choice.

The Best CBD Oil For Anxiety

If you’re looking for a good long-term anxiety solution, grab a good CBD oil. But since the market is exploding with options, how do you know which to choose? Some work better than others, and some don’t work at all. To help you decide, we’re going to recommend two of the best CBD oils for anxiety below.

Joy Organics

Joy Organics is an elite supplier of CBD products based in Colorado. As Colorado was one of the first US states to legalize recreational cannabis use, their farms have tons of experience growing high-quality products.

Their company makes broad-spectrum CBD oils, infused into products like gummies, drinks, and potent tinctures. These oils range in concentrations, featuring 250mg, 500mg, 1000mg, and 1500mg options. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Joy Organics makes a great option for anxiety treatment. Depending on your condition, age, height and weight, and more, they offer a dose appropriate for you.

More importantly, all of their products are THC-free. Without the risk of addiction or a failed drug test, Joy Organics’ CBD oils are the perfect option for anxiety.

NuLeaf Naturals

Another Colorado-based company, NuLeaf Naturals provides “premium cannabinoid wellness”. Every one of their products is organic and additive-free. Founded in 2014, they’ve been producing hemp products since local legalization. Committed to sustainable farming practices, NuLeaf uses the whole plant to produce their CBD. As such, their end products are considered full-spectrum oils.

While these might contain trace amounts of THC, they’re guaranteed to feature less than 0.3%. That’s because federal law mandates that all hemp grown cannot contain higher concentrations. By using CO2 extraction, they create the cleanest CBD both for your health and the environment. NuLeaf brings a truly natural, plant-based solution to anxiety, unlike the synthetics used in pharmaceuticals.


Suffering from anxiety is normal, and it’s not your fault. Modern way of life pushes us further into stressful situations. We’re constantly plugged in, our attention pulled in multiple directions. Social media and never being able to switch off promotes a culture of comparison. Plus, genetic dispositions to anxiety exist. Above all, taking care of your mental health is important. If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out to a doctor or similar medical professional to get help. CBD offers a promising treatment to chronic anxiety, and your physician will guide you towards the right therapy for your situation.