xanax versus cannabis for anxiety relief study

CBD For Anxiety: Better Than Xanax?

Medical cannabis significantly reduced Xanax use among 146 study participants diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

  • After 2 months, 30.1% of patients stopped taking Xanax and other benzodiazepines prescribed to them for the treatment of their anxiety disorder.
  • After 6 months, 45.2% had stopped taking prescribed benzodiazepines entirely.

Medical cannabis and full spectrum CBD oil interact with the endocannabinoid system to affect mood, mental health, and physical wellbeing.

  • The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is located in the central nervous system. It is responsible for maintaining chemical balance (homeostasis) within the body.
  • Cannabinoids, like CBD, act as signaling agents within the ECS. Cannabinoids help the ECS communicate regulatory commands to systems that restore the body’s chemical balance.
  • Unlike Xanax, taking CBD for anxiety does not have a sedative effect. CBD is not addictive and does not have significant withdrawal symptoms.
  • Though not covered in the scope of this medical study, CBD benefits for inflammation and blood pressure may be helpful to individuals with anxiety as well.

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Anxiety Study: CBD Results

  •  After 2-months, 30.1% of patients taking medical cannabis for anxiety discontinued using benzodiazepines.
  • After 4 months, 44.5% of medical cannabis patients discontinued using benzodiazepines.
  • After 6months, 45.2% of medical cannabis patients in the study had stopped using benzodiazepines for treating anxiety.  (1)

medical cannabis bud

Anxiety Study Summary

Benzodiazepines are a group of pharmaceutical drugs including Xanax that are prescribed for the treatment of anxiety symptoms.  Benzodiazepines have a strong sedative effect and several significant adverse effects including addiction and withdrawal symptoms.  Therefore, there is a pressing need for alternative ways to treat anxiety disorders.

  • This medical cannabis study was a retrospective analysis of 146 patients.
  • Patients were already taking benzodiazepines prior to starting medical cannabis.
  • The average age of study participants was 47 years.
  • 61% of participants were female.
  • 54% of the study participants had used cannabis prior to the study. (2  

CBD THC Ratio For Anxiety

CBD is believed to reduce feelings of anxiety while THC may cause anxious feelings.

  • CBD has the ability to “down modulate” THC absorption in the central nervous system and counteract THC’s tendency to cause anxiety in some people.
  • It is hypothesized elsewhere that the increased feelings of anxiety caused by modern cannabis strains are the result of THC:CBD ratios changing from 1:1 parity to 5:1 THC dominant over the last 20 years.
  • Selective breeding for THC dominant cannabinoid ratios is a legacy of prohibition economic incentives.
  • Interestingly, the distribution of cannabinoids (CBD:THC ratio) within the cannabis used in this medical study did not have a correlation with a greater likelihood of quitting benzodiazepines.
  • “The distribution of cannabinoid (CBD and THC) proportions was not significantly different among patients who continued and those who discontinued benzodiazepines.”

CBD For Anxiety: Other Medical Studies

  •  Multiple studies have shown that THC may cause anxiety in some consumers while CBD appears to have an anti-anxiety effect.
  • CBD decreases the anxiogenic (anxiety causing effects) of THC when both CBD and THC are consumed together.\
  • It is believed that higher THC to CBD ratios lead to anxiety-causing effects of cannabis in some consumers. (3)


The authors conclude that a large percentage of the participants stopped using benzodiazepines such as Xanax in conjunction within 6 months of starting medical cannabis use for anxiety symptoms.  The authors urge further research into the benefits of cannabis for anxiety disorders.

  • “Within a cohort of patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy, a large proportion successfully discontinued their pre-existing benzodiazepine therapy. This study therefore supports the continued research of medical cannabis and urges further exploration into its therapeutic value.”

Download The Study



Purcell C, Davis A, Moolman N, Taylor SM. Reduction of Benzodiazepine Use in Patients Prescribed Medical Cannabis. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2019;4(3):214‐218. Published 2019 Sep 23. doi:10.1089/can.2018.0020

Study Authors


S. Mark Taylor

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