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Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety conditions with impairment in social life. Cannabidiol (CBD), one major non-psychotomimetic compound of the cannabis sativa plant, has shown anxiolytic effects both in humans and in animals. This preliminary study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test (SPST) on healthy control (HC) patients and treatment-naïve SAD patients who received a single dose of CBD or placebo. A total of 24 never-treated patients with SAD were allocated to receive either CBD (600 mg; n=12) or placebo (placebo; n=12) in a double-blind randomized design 1 h and a half before the test. The same number of HC (n=12) performed the SPST without receiving any medication. Each volunteer participated in only one experimental session in a double-blind procedure. 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 at six different time points during the SPST. The results were submitted to a repeated-measures analysis of variance. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group as assessed with the VAMS. The SSPS-N scores evidenced significant increases during the testing of placebo group that was almost abolished in the CBD group. No significant differences were observed between CBD and HC in SSPS-N scores or in the cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert factors of VAMS. The increase in anxiety induced by the SPST on subjects with SAD was reduced with the use of CBD, resulting in a similar response as the HC.
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Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public
Speaking in Treatment-Naı¨ve Social Phobia Patients
Mateus M Bergamaschi
1,2,3
, Regina Helena Costa Queiroz
2,3
, Marcos Hortes Nisihara Chagas
1,3
,
Danielle Chaves Gomes de Oliveira
1,3
, Bruno Spinosa De Martinis
3,4
, Fla
´vio Kapczinski
3,5
,
Joa
˜o Quevedo
3,6
, Rafael Roesler
3,7
, Nadja Schro
¨der
3,8
, Antonio E Nardi
3,9
, Rocio Martı
´n-Santos
3,10
,
Jaime Eduardo Cecı
´lio Hallak
1,3
, Antonio Waldo Zuardi
1,3
and Jose
´Alexandre S Crippa*
,1,3
1
Department of Neuroscience and Behavior, School of Medicine of Ribeira˜o Preto, University of Sa˜o Paulo, SP, Brazil;
2
Department of Clinical,
Toxicological and Food Sciences Analysis, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ribeira˜o Preto, University of Sa˜o Paulo, SP, Brazil;
3
National
Institute for Translational Medicine (INCT-TM), CNPq, Brazil;
4
Department of Chemistry, School of Philosophy, Science and Literature of Ribeira˜o
Preto, University of Sa˜o Paulo, Ribeira˜o Preto, SP, Brazil;
5
Bipolar Disorder Program, Hospital de Clı
´
nicas de Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil;
6
Laboratory of
Neurosciences, Health Sciences Unit, University of Southern Santa Catarina, Criciu
´ma, SC, Brazil;
7
Laboratory of Molecular Neuropharmacology,
Department of Pharmacology, Institute for Basic Health Sciences, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil;
8
Neurobiology
and Developmental Biology Laboratory, School of Biosciences, Pontifical Catholic University, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil;
9
Institute of Psychiatry,
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil;
10
Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Neurosciences, Hospital Clı
´
nic, IDIBAPS,
CIBERSAM, Barcelona, Spain
Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety conditions with impairment in social life. Cannabidiol
(CBD), one major non-psychotomimetic compound of the cannabis sativa plant, has shown anxiolytic effects both in humans and in
animals. This preliminary study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test (SPST) on healthy control (HC) patients
and treatment-naı
¨ve SAD patients who received a single dose of CBD or placebo. A total of 24 never-treated patients with SAD were
allocated to receive either CBD (600 mg; n¼12) or placebo (placebo; n¼12) in a double-blind randomized design 1 h and a half before
the test. The same number of HC (n¼12) performed the SPST without receiving any medication. Each volunteer participated in
only one experimental session in a double-blind procedure. 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 at six
different time points during the SPST. The results were submitted to a repeated-measures analysis of variance. Pretreatment with CBD
significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their
anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with
the control group as assessed with the VAMS. The SSPS-N scores evidenced significant increases during the testing of placebo group that
was almost abolished in the CBD group. No significant differences were observed between CBD and HC in SSPS-N scores or in the
cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert factors of VAMS. The increase in anxiety induced by the SPST on subjects with SAD was
reduced with the use of CBD, resulting in a similar response as the HC.
Neuropsychopharmacology advance online publication, 9 February 2011; doi:10.1038/npp.2011.6
Keywords: cannabidiol; CBD; anxiety; simulation of public speaking test; SPST; social anxiety disorder
INTRODUCTION
Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the
most common anxiety conditions and is associated with
impairment in social adjustment to the usual aspects of
daily life, increased disability, dysfunction, and a loss of
productivity (Kessler, 2007; Filho et al, 2010). SAD tends to
follow a long-term and unremitting course and is rarely
resolved without treatment (Crippa et al, 2007; Chagas
et al, 2010).
The pharmacological management of SAD remains
problematic, despite several guidelines or consensus state-
ments issued over the past few years (Canadian Psychiatric
Association, 2006; Montgomery et al, 2004). As this anxiety
disorder is often poorly controlled by the currently available
drugs (only about 30% of the subjects achieve true recovery
Received 27 September 2010; revised 11 December 2010; accepted
15 December 2010
*Correspondence: Professor Dr JAS Crippa, Departamento de
Neurocie
ˆncias e Cie
ˆncias do Comportamento, Faculdade de Medicina
de Ribeira˜o Preto, Universidade de Sa˜o Paulo, Hospital das Clı
´nicas,
Terceiro Andar, Av. Bandeirantes, 3900, Ribeira˜o Preto, Sa˜ o Paulo,
Brazil, Tel: + 5 51 63 602 2201, Fax: + 5 51 63 602 0713,
E-mail: jcrippa@fmrp.usp.br
Neuropsychopharmacology (2011), 1–8
&
2011 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved 0893-133X/11
$
32.00
www.neuropsychopharmacology.org
or remission without residual symptomatology (Blanco
et al, 2002)), there is a clear need to search for novel
therapeutic agents.
Subjects with SAD seem to be more likely to use cannabis
sativa (cannabis) than those without other anxiety disorders
to ‘self-medicate’ anxiety reactions (Buckner et al, 2008).
However, the relationship of cannabis with anxiety is
paradoxical. Cannabis users reported the reduction of
anxiety as one of the motivations for its use; on the other
hand, episodes of intense anxiety or panic are among the
most common undesirable effects of the drug (Crippa et al,
2009). These apparently conflicting statements may partly
reflect the fact that low doses of the best-known constituent
of the plant, D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9-THC), engender
anxiolytic-like effects, whereas higher doses produce
anxiogenic reactions (Crippa et al, 2009).
Moreover, other components of the plant can influence
its pharmacological activity; in particular, cannabidiol
(CBD), one major non-psychotomimetic compound of the
plant, has psychological effects substantially different from
those of 9-THC (Zuardi, 2008). Oral administration of CBD
to healthy volunteers has been shown to attenuate the
anxiogenic effect of D9-THC and does not seem to involve
any pharmacokinetic interactions (Zuardi et al, 1982). In
animal studies, CBD has similar effects to anxiolytic drugs
in different paradigms including conditioned emotional
response, the Vogel conflict test, and the elevated plus-maze
test (Zuardi, 2008). In human studies, the anxiolytic effects
of CBD have been elicited in subjects submitted to the
Simulation Public Speaking Test (SPST) (Zuardi et al, 1993).
Using functional neuroimaging in healthy volunteers, we
have observed that CBD has anxiolytic properties and
that these effects are associated with an action on the limbic
and paralimbic brain areas (Fusar-Poli et al, 2009a; Crippa
et al, 2004).
Recently, we investigated the central effects of CBD on
regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), using single photon
emission computed tomography (SPECT) in patients with
SAD. Relative to placebo, CBD was associated with
significant decreases in subjective anxiety induced by the
SPECT procedure and modulated the same brain areas as
the healthy volunteers (Crippa et al, 2010, 2011).
The data reviewed above led to the hypothesis that CBD
may be an effective compound in the treatment of SAD
symptoms. As a first step to investigate this hypothesis,
we used the SPST, an experimental model for the induction
of anxiety. SPST has apparent and predictive validity
for SAD because the fear of speaking in public is a
cardinal manifestation of SAD, and there is pharmacological
evidence that the response pattern to some substances in
the SPST is similar to the clinical response presented
by patients with SAD (Graeff et al, 2003; Brunello et al,
2000). In this preliminary study, we aimed to measure the
subjective and physiological effects of SPST on healthy
control (HC) and on treatment-naı
¨ve SAD patients, who
received a single dose of CBD or placebo, in a double-blind
design. We have decided to use a single dose of CBD
because of ethical and economical constraints, as a first step
in the investigation of a possible anxiolytic action of this
cannabinoid in patients with pathological anxiety. For
instance, it is important to confirm whether CBD has the
advantage of a rapid onset of action, making it particularly
suitable for individuals who have episodic performance-
related social phobia and who are able to predict the
need for treatment well in advance. Considering previous
results from a single dose of CBD, it is expected that this
cannabinoid will reduce the level of fear provoked by
the SPST.
METHODS
Subjects
A total of 24 subjects with generalized SAD and 12 HC
subjects were selected by the screening procedure described
below (see section). The SAD patients were randomly
assigned to the two groups with 12 subjects each to receive
CBD (600 mgFSAD-CBD) or placebo (SAD-PLAC), in a
double-blind study design. To ensure the adequacy of the
matching procedure, the first participant had his treatment
blindly chosen between the two treatment options available;
the next participant (whose characteristics were matched to
the first one’s) had his treatment drawn from the remaining
option. An equal number of healthy controls (n¼12)
performed the test without receiving any medication (HC).
The groups were matched according to gender, age, years of
education, and socioeconomic status. Moreover, the two
SAD groups were balanced according to the Social Phobia
Inventory (SPIN (Connor et al, 2000)). All participants were
treatment-naı
¨ve (either with pharmacotherapy or psy-
chotherapy) and did not present any other concomitant
psychiatric disorder. No subject had a history of head
trauma, neurological illness, ECT, substance abuse, or
major medical illnesses, based on a semi-standardized
medical questionnaire and physical examination. They were
all non-smokers (of tobacco) and had not taken any
medications for at least 3 months before the study. None
of the subject had used marijuana more than five times in
their lives (no use in the last year) and none had ever used
any other illegal drug. All subjects gave written informed
consent after being fully informed about the research
procedure, following approval by the local ethical commit-
tee (HCRP No. 12407/2009).
Screening Procedure and Clinical Assessment
As an initial step, 2319 undergraduate students were
screened by a self-assessment diagnostic instrument, the
short version of the Social Phobia Inventory named MINI-
SPIN (Oso
´rio Fde et al, 2010; Connor et al, 2001). This led to
the identification of subjects with probable SAD, who
scored a minimum of six points in the three items that
compose the MINI-SPIN. Using this cut-off score, the MINI-
SPIN has been previously shown to provide high sensitivity
and specificity for the detection of SAD (de Lima Oso
´rio
et al, 2007; Connor et al, 2001). A total of 237 subjects with a
positive MINI-SPIN and an equal number of subjects with
zero points in the three items that compose this instrument
were contacted by telephone in order to respond to the
general revision and the social anxiety module of the
Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV, clinical
version (SCID-CV (First et al, 1997), translated into
Portuguese (Del-Ben et al, 2001)). The volunteers who
fulfilled SAD criteria and scored ‘very much’ or ‘extremely’
Cannabidiol reduces anxiety
MM Bergamaschi et al
2
Neuropsychopharmacology
in the 11th item of SPIN (avoids speeches) and those who
fulfilled the HC criteria were randomly invited to attend
an interview for diagnosis confirmation through the full
SCID-CV, applied by two examiners familiar with the
instrument (the Kappa coefficient between the two inter-
viewers was 0.84 (Crippa et al, 2008a)).
CBD Preparation
CBD (600 mg) in powder, B99.9% pure (kindly supplied by
STI-Pharm, Brentwood, UK and THC-Pharm, Frankfurt,
Germany), was dissolved in corn oil (Crippa et al, 2004;
Zuardi et al, 1993). The same amount of corn oil was used
as placebo. The drug and placebo were packed inside
identical gelatin capsules. We have chosen the dose of
600 mg based on the fact that acute anxiolytic effects of CBD
have been observed in healthy controls with doses ranging
from 300 (Zuardi et al, 1993) to 600 mg (Fusar-Poli et al,
2009a, b). Although we have recently observed that 400 mg
of CBD significantly decreased subjective anxiety induced
by the SPECT procedure in SAD patients, the SPST has face
validity for SAD and the fear of speaking in public is
considered to be the most stressful situation in this
condition, in contrast with the neuroimaging procedure.
Therefore, we have decided to use the highest dose of CBD
previously found to have anxiolytic effects. The time of
assessment after the procedure was chosen based on
previous studies that showed that the plasma peak of an
oral dose of CBD usually occurs 1–2 h after ingestion
(Agurell et al, 1981; Crippa et al, 2004, 2010, 2011;
Borgwardt et al, 2008; Fusar-Poli et al, 2009a, b)
Psychological Measurements
The state-anxiety level and other subjective states were
evaluated during the test through the Visual Analogue
Mood ScaleFVAMS (Norris, 1971), translated into Portu-
guese (Zuardi and Karniol, 1981). In this scale, the subject is
told to mark a point that identifies his/her present
subjective state on a 100-mm straight line placed between
two words that describe opposite mood states. VAMS
contains 16 items that Norris grouped into four factors.
A factorial analysis performed with the Portuguese version
of the VAMS also yielded four factors with similar item
composition (Zuardi et al, 1993). The original name of the
anxiety factor was preserved, but the names of the
remaining factors have been changed to fit the meaning of
the items with the highest loads in that particular factor.
Thus, the present factors are: (1) anxiety, comprising the
items calm–excited,relaxed–tense, and tranquil–troubled;
(2) sedation (former mental sedation), including the items
alert–drowsy, and attentive–dreamy; (3) cognitive impair-
ment (former physical sedation), including quick-witted–
mentally slow, proficient–incompetent, energetic–lethargic,
clear-headed–muzzy, gregarious–withdrawn, well-coordi-
nated–clumsy, and strong–feeble; and (4) discomfort (for-
mer other feelings and attitudes), made of the items
interested–bored, happy–sad, contented–discontented, and
amicable–antagonistic (Parente et al, 2005).
The Self-Statements during Public Speaking Scale
(Hoffmann and Di Bartolo, 2000) (SSPS), translated into
Portuguese (de Lima Oso
´rio et al, 2008) is a self-report
instrument that aims to measure the self-perception of
performance in the specific situation of public speaking. It
is based upon cognitive theories that propose that social
anxiety is the result of a negative perception of oneself and of
others towards oneself. The scale is comprised of 10 items,
rated on a likert scale from 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly
agree), which are organized into two subscales of five items
each, for positive or negative self-evaluation. In this study, we
applied the negative self-evaluation subscale (SSPS-N).
The Bodily Symptoms Scale (BSS) was designed to detect
physical symptoms that can, indirectly, influence anxiety
measures (Zuardi et al, 1993). It is organized into 21 items,
and the intensity of each symptom is rated from 0
(no symptom) to 5 (highest).
Physiological Measurements
Skin conductance. A computer-controlled, voltage-constant
(0.6 V) module with automatic back off (Contact Precision
Instruments, UK) measured skin conductance. Two electro-
des (Beckman, UK) were fixed with adhesive tape. Contact
with the skin was made through high conductance gel
(KY gel, Johnson and Johnson, Brazil). The skin conduc-
tance level (SCL) and the number of spontaneous fluctua-
tions (SF) of the skin conductance were recorded.
Arterial blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and
diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were measured by a mercury
sphygmomanometer (Becton Dickinson, Brazil).
Heart rate. Heart rate (HR) was estimated by manually
counting the pulse rate.
Procedure
The SPST was the same as used by McNair et al (1982) with
some modifications (Hallak et al, 2010).
The procedure is summarized in Table 1. After a 15-min
adaptation period, baseline measurements (B) were taken
and followed by a single dose of oral CBD or placebo in a
double-blind procedure. Pretest measurements (P) were
made 80 min after the drug ingestion. Immediately there-
after, the subject received the instructions and had 2 min to
prepare a 4-min speech about ‘the public transportation
system of your city’. He/she was also told that the speech
would be recorded on videotape and later analyzed by a
psychologist. Anticipatory speech measurements (A) were
taken before the subject started speaking. Thus, the subject
started speaking in front of the camera while viewing his/
her own image on the TV screen. The speech was
interrupted in the middle and speech performance mea-
surements (S) were taken. The speech was recorded for a
further 2 min. Post-test measurements (F1 and F2) were
made 15 and 35 min after the end of the speech,
respectively.
Statistical Analysis
Clinical and demographical characteristics were analyzed
with the non-parametric tests (gender and socioeconomic
level) and by the analysis of variance for one factor
Cannabidiol reduces anxiety
MM Bergamaschi et al
3
Neuropsychopharmacology
(ANOVA), followed by post-hoc Bonferroni’s test for
multiple comparisons (age, age of SAD onset and SPIN).
Scores of VAMS’s factors, SSPS-N, BSS, arterial diastolic and
systolic pressure, heart rate, as well as the SCL and the total
number of SF, were transformed by calculating the difference
between the score in each phase and the pretest score in the
same volunteer. For the analysis, SCL values were converted
into natural logarithms (logn). These delta scores were
submitted to a repeated-measures analysis of variance
(repeated-measures ANOVA), analyzing the factors of phases,
groups, and phases by groups’ interaction. In the case where
sphericity conditions were not reached, the degrees of freedom
of the repeated factor were corrected with the Huynh–Feldt
epsilon. Whenever a significant phase by group interaction
occurred, comparisons among the groups were made at each
phase using a one-factor ANOVA followed by multiple
comparisons with the Bonferroni’s test.
Data analysis was performed using the SPSS-17 program,
and the significance level adopted was po0.05.
RESULTS
Subjects
The clinical and demographical characteristics of the subjects
are shown in Table 2. The only significant differences among
the groups were found in the mean scores of SPIN
(F
2, 35
¼34.3; po0.001). The SPIN scores were significantly
lower in healthy volunteers than in subjects with SAD who
received CBD or placebo. No significant difference was
observed between the two groups with SAD.
Psychological Measures
No differences were observed among the initial measures of
the three groups on anxiety (F
2,35
¼1.4; p¼0.27), sedation
(F
2,35
¼0.4; p¼0.70), cognitive impairment (F
2,35
¼1.9;
p¼0.16), and discomfort (F
2,35
¼0.6; p¼0.55) VAMS
factors. Changes in relation to the pretest phase of VAMS
factors in the three groups are shown in Figure 1.
Regarding the VAMS anxiety factor, the repeated-
measures ANOVA showed a significant effect of phases
(F
3.6,118.5
¼32.7; po0.001), group (F
2,33
¼13.5; po0.001)
and phases by group interaction (F
7.2,118.5
¼6.4; po0.001).
Comparisons among the groups evidenced significant
differences between SAD-PLAC and HC at the initial
(p¼0.018), anticipatory (po0.001), speech (po0.001) and
post-speech (0.018) phases. The SAD-CBD differs from the
SAD-PLAC (p¼0.012) and HC (p¼0.007) during the
speech phase. Regarding cognitive impairment, repeated-
measures ANOVA showed a significant effect of phases
(F
3.2,105.8
¼5.6; p¼0.001) and phases by group interaction
(F
6.4,105.8
¼5.1; po0.001). Comparisons among the groups
evidenced that SAD-PLAC differed significantly from
SAD-CBD (p¼0.009) and HC (p¼0.001) at the speech phase.
Regarding discomfort, there are significant effects of phases
(F
4,132
¼7.1; po0.001), group (F
2,33
¼4.7; p¼0.016) and
phases by group interaction (F
4,132
¼2.2; p¼0.036). Compar-
isons among the groups evidenced that SAD-PLAC differed
significantly from HC at the anticipatory phase (p¼0.047) and
from SAD-CBD (p¼0.029) and HC (p¼0.001) at speech
phases. On the sedation factor, there are significant effects of
phases (F
3.1,102.1
¼27.1; po0.001), group (F
2,33
¼5.3;
p¼0.010) and phases by group interaction (F
6.2,102.1
¼2.4;
p¼0.032). Comparisons among the groups evidenced that
SAD-PLAC differed significantly from SAD-CBD (p¼0.016)
and HC (p¼0.001) at the anticipatory phase and from HC at
speech phases (p¼0.005).
The scores of the SSPS-N at the initial phase differ
significantly among the groups (F
2,35
¼14.8; po0.001), with
the SAS-PLAC and SAD-CBD higher than HC (po0.001).
Changes in relation to the pretest phase of SSPS-N in
the three groups are shown in Figure 2. The repeated-
measures ANOVA showed a significant effect of phases
(F
3.1,101.6
¼9.7; po0.001), group (F
2,33
¼6.6; p¼0.004) and
phases by group interaction (F
6.2,101.6
¼3.2; p¼0.006).
Comparisons among the groups evidenced significant
differences between SAD-PLAC and SAD-CBD at the
anticipatory (p¼0.043) and speech (p¼0.001) phases and
between SAD-PLAC and HC at the speech (po0.001)
phases. No significant differences were observed between
SAD-CBD and HC.
Table 1 Timetable of the Experimental Session
Session
(min)
Phase Procedure
0:30 Adaptation to the laboratory; instructions
about the interview and measurements
0:15 Baseline (B) SCL, SF, HR, AP, VAMS, SSPS and BSS
0 Drug intake: CBD or placebo capsules
+1:20 Pre-stress (P) SCL, SF, HR, AP, VAMS, SSPS and BSS
+1:30 Instructions about the SPST
+1:32 Speech preparation
+1:34 Anticipatory
speech (A)
SCL, SF, HR, AP, VAMS,
SSPS and BSS
+1:45 Start of speech
+1:47 Speech
performance (S)
SCL, SF, HR, AP, VAMS,
SSPS and BSS
+1:53 Continuation of speech
+1:55 End of speech
+2:10 Post-stress 1 (F1) SCL, SF, HR, AP, VAMS, SSPS and BSS
+2:30 Post-stress 2 (F2) SCL, SF, HR, AP, VAMS, SSPS and BSS
Table 2 Clinical and Demographical Characteristics of the Groups
Sad-placebo Sad-cbd Healthy p
Male/female 6/6 6/6 6/6 1.0
Age (mean (SD)) 22.9 (2.4) 24.6 (3.6) 23.3 (1.7) 0.36
Socioeconomic
levels
a
(Median)
2 2.5 2 0.66
Age of SAD onset
(mean (SD))
12.2 (5.8) 9.6 (6.9) F0.36
SPIN (mean (SD)) 36.3 (11.2) 30.9 (12.0) 5.75 (3.3) o0.001
Abbreviations: SAD, social anxiety disorder; SPIN, Social Phobia Inventory.
a
Socioeconomic levels were assessed by the Brazil Socioeconomic Classification
Criteria.
Cannabidiol reduces anxiety
MM Bergamaschi et al
4
Neuropsychopharmacology
No differences were observed among the initial measures
of the three groups on BSS (F
2,35
¼1.4; p¼0.25). Changes in
relation to the pretest phase of BSS in the three groups
showed a significant effect of phases (F
3.3,110.2
¼8.1; po0.001)
and phases by group interaction (F
6.7,110.2
¼2.3; p¼0.035).
Comparisons among the groups evidenced significant
differences between SAD-PLAC and HC at the speech phase
(p¼0.05). In this phase the changes in relation to the
pretest phase were 8.2 for SAD-PLAC and 0.3 for HC.
SAD-CBD group had an intermediate score, which did not
differ from SAD-PLAC or HC.
The observed powers for the tests used in the statistical
analysis of the anxiety VAMS factor and in the negative
SSPS, were 0.996 and 0.881, respectively.
Physiological Measures
Systolic pressure (F
2,35
¼1.159; p¼0.33), diastolic pressure
(F
2,35
¼1.7; p¼0.20), heart rate (F
2,35
¼0.4; p¼0.67), SCL
(F
2,5
¼1.6; p¼0.22), and SF (F
2,35
¼0.1; p¼0.90) did not
show significant differences among the three groups in the
initial measures. Changes in relation to the pretest showed
significant repeated-measures ANOVA effect only in phases
for the following physiological measures: systolic pressure
(F
3.7,122.5
¼5.9; po0.001), diastolic pressure (F
4,132
¼5.1;
po0.001), SCL (F
3.2,84.9
¼2.8; p¼0.045), and SF
(F
3.6,92.4
¼3.8; p¼0.009). In these measures, the values
were significantly elevated during SPS without differences
among the groups. For the heart rates, the repeated-
measures ANOVA showed a significant effect of phases
(F
3.9,127.1
¼6.9; po0.001) and phases by group interaction
(F
7.7,127.1
¼4.6; po0.001). Comparisons among the groups
showed a reduction in heart rates from the initial to
the pretest measures significantly greater (po0.001) for
the SAD-PLAC (delta mean ¼9.17; SE ¼1.77) than for HD
(delta mean ¼0.5; SE ¼0.56) group. The SAD-CBD group
(delta mean ¼4.3; SE ¼1.56) did not differ significantly
from the other two groups.
DISCUSSION
As observed in another study of SAD patients’ performance
on SPST (Crippa et al, 2008b), the present results of the
Figure 1 Changes in Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) factors induced by simulated public speaking test (SPST), measured in 12 social anxiety
patients who received cannabidiol ( ), 12 social anxiety patients who received placebo ( ) and 12 healthy controls ( ). The phases of
the experimental session are: b, basal; P, pretest; a, anticipation; S, speech performance; F1, post-speech measures 1; F2, post-speech measures 2.
Points in the curves indicate mean and vertical bars SEM. *Indicates significant differences from healthy control and + from social anxiety patients who
received cannabidiol.
Figure 2 Changes in SSPS-N scores induced by simulated public
speaking test (SPST). Other specifications are in the legend of Figure 1.
*Indicates significant differences from healthy control and + from social
anxiety patients who received cannabidiol.
Cannabidiol reduces anxiety
MM Bergamaschi et al
5
Neuropsychopharmacology
VAMS scale showed that the SAD-PLAC group presented a
significantly higher anxiety level and greater cognitive
impairment, discomfort, and alert compared with the
control group during the test. This was expected as the
fear of speaking in public is a cardinal manifestation of SAD
(Brunello et al, 2000).
Pretreatment of SAD patients with CBD significantly
reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in
their speech performance (S) and significantly decreased
alert in their anticipatory speech (A). The cognitive
impairment, discomfort, and alert of SAD patients that
received CBD had similar results to the HC during the SPST.
These preliminary results indicate that a single dose of CBD
can reduce the anxiety-enhancing effect provoked by SPST
in SAD patients, indicating that this cannabinoid inhibits
the fear of speaking in public, one of the main symptoms of
the disorder.
The anxiolytic effects of CBD had been extensively demon-
strated in animal studies and in healthy volunteers submitted
to anxiety induced by several procedures, including the
simulation of public speaking (Crippa et al, 2010, 2011).
However, there is only one published report of the anxio-
lytic effect of CBD in an anxiety disorder (Crippa et al, 2010,
2011). This study was performed with SAD patients and the
anxiolyic effects of CBD were detected before provoking
anxiety by the tracer injection and scanning procedure of
SPECT, suggesting that CBD facilitates habituation of
anticipatory anxiety. The SPECT analysis of this study and
of a previous one with healthy volunteers (Crippa et al,
2004) showed that the CBD effects were associated with the
activity of the parahippocampal gyrus and hippocampus.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) detected
attenuated responses in the amygdala and in the cingulated
cortex induced by CBD (600 mg) during the viewing of
fearful facial stimuli (Fusar-Poli et al, 2009a). Moreover,
CBD has shown to disrupt forward intrinsic connectivity
between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate during the
neural response to fearful faces (Fusar-Poli et al, 2009b).
Taken together, these studies demonstrate the action of
CBD in limbic and paralimbic brain areas, which are known
to be associated with anxiety.
The anxiolytic action of CBD may be mediated by 5-HT
1A
receptors, as it displaces the agonist [3H]8-OHDPAT from the
cloned human 5-HT1A receptor in a concentration-dependent
manner and exerts an effect as an agonist at the human
5-HT1A receptor in signal-transduction studies (Russo et al,
2005). Additionally, CBD injected into the dorsolateral
periaqueductal gray of rats produced anxiolytic-like effects
in the elevated plus-maze and elevated T-maze, and these
effects were prevented by a 5HT1A receptor antagonist (Soares
et al, 2010; Campos and Guimaraes, 2008).
Another important observation of this study was that the
increase of negative self-evaluation during public speaking
was almost abolished by CBD. In a previous study, we
suggested that the negative self-evaluation during the
phobic situation of public speaking would be important
for the avoidance and impairment in social functioning that
support the diagnosis of SAD (Freitas-Ferrari et al,
submitted). In that way, the observed effect of CBD for
improving the self-evaluation during public speaking, which
is one of the pivotal aspects of SAD, will influence the
therapy of SAD patients.
Although physiological measures have not shown sig-
nificant differences among the groups, the self-report of
somatic symptoms (BSS) increased significantly only for the
SAD patients who received placebo during the test.
Following the same rationale as above, it is well-known
that more pronounced bodily symptoms may contribute to
the clinical diagnosis of SAD, and this result suggests that
CBD also protects the patients from their subjective
physiological abnormalities induced by the SPST.
The findings reported herein need to be interpreted with
caution, given the limitations of the study. First, it would have
been desirable to measure plasma levels of CBD and to relate
such measurements to changes in the VAMS scores; however,
it should be pointed out that previous investigations have not
been able to confirm whether there is a direct relationship
between plasma levels of cannabinoids, in particular CBD, and
their clinical effects (Agurell et al, 1986). Another limitation
refers to the size of the sample included; however, the
statistical power of the data from the VAMS and SSPS was
shown to be relatively robust even with small subject numbers.
An extensive list of medications for the pharmacological
treatment of SAD was made available in recent years,
including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs),
selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor
(SSNRI), antidepressants and benzodiazepines (Schneier,
2001). However, both SSRIs and SSNRIs have an initial
activation and a long latency period of response, and
benzodiazepines are limited by their potential to produce
motor impairment, sedation, and to induce dependence and
withdrawal symptoms following discontinuation (Blanco et al,
2002). Conversely, CBD has important advantages in compar-
ison with the currently available pharmacological agents for
the treatment of SAD, such as an early onset of action and lack
of important side effects both with acute and chronic
administration to healthy subjects (Crippa et al, 2010, 2011).
Moreover, it was shown that repeated treatment with CBD
(but not 9-THC) does not develop tolerance or dependence
(Hayakawa et al, 2007) and possibly reduces drug-seeking
behaviors (Parker et al, 2004; Ren et al, 2009; Morgan et al,
2010). Thus, because of the absence of psychoactive or
cognitive effects, to its safety and tolerability profiles, and to
its broad pharmacological spectrum, CBD is possibly the
cannabinoid that is most likely to have initial findings in
anxiety translated into clinical practice.
Therefore, the effects of a single dose of CBD, observed in
this study in the face of one of the main SAD’s phobic
stimuli, is a promising indication of a rapid onset of
therapeutic effect in patients with SAD. However, rando-
mized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trials with
larger samples and chronic use are still needed to confirm
these statements. Likewise, because CBD effects are
biphasic, the determination of adequate treatment ranges
for each disorder remains a challenge. Further research to
determine the precise mechanisms of action of CBD in the
different anxiety disorders is desirable and opportune.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work received grants from FAPESP. FK, JQ, RR, AEN,
JECH, AWZ and JASC are recipients of CNPq Productivity
Awards.
Cannabidiol reduces anxiety
MM Bergamaschi et al
6
Neuropsychopharmacology
DISCLOSURE
Professor Kapczinski has received grant/research support
from Astra-Zeneca, EliLilly, the Janssen-Cilag, Servier,
CNPq, CAPES, NARSAD and the Stanley Medical Research
Institute; he has been a member of the speakers’ boards for
Astra-Zeneca, EliLilly, Janssen and Servier; and he has
served as a consultant for Servier.
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