Can Full-Spectrum CBD Cause Anxiety?

By | last updated February 20, 2022

Medically reviewed by
Andres Maldonado, MD

Evidence Based 8

In short: yes, full-spectrum CBD can cause anxiety in some susceptible individuals. Although research has shown that pure cannabidiol (CBD) can relieve anxiety, this isn’t necessarily true for full-spectrum CBD.

That’s because full-spectrum CBD extracts contain a small amount (<0.3%) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis.

If you’re sensitive to THC due to certain risk factors, you can get more anxiety or even a panic attack from taking a large enough dose of a full-spectrum CBD product.

Read on to learn how full-spectrum CBD can cause anxiety and what you can do about it. 

Research on CBD and Anxiety

Unlike its cousin THC, CBD can’t cause anxiety or any other mind-altering effects. On the contrary, multiple human studies have demonstrated that pure CBD can relieve various types of anxiety:

  • In a 2011 Brazilian study, CBD capsules improved anxiety caused by public speaking in people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) (1)
  • In a similar 2019 Japanese study, pure CBD oil improved anxiety in teenagers with SAD and avoidant personality disorder (2)
  • In another 2019 study done in Colorado, CBD capsules improved anxiety scores in almost 80% of the study participants (3)
  • The researchers of a 2020 review paper concluded that “CBD has a promising role as alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders” which include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), SAD, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (4)

Why Full-Spectrum CBD Can Cause Anxiety

If pure CBD has been shown to relieve anxiety, then why is full-spectrum CBD different?

It’s because full-spectrum CBD is a whole-plant hemp extract. Since hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains small amounts (0.3% or less) of THC, this means full-spectrum CBD can have THC.

THC is the main compound responsible for the cannabis high. Its potential side effects include increased anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks.

There’s some evidence that THC has a biphasic effect on anxiety, meaning that low doses can reduce anxiety, while higher ones can make it worse (5). On top of that, multiple factors can influence how you respond to THC.

According to research, some people have a higher chance of getting anxiety from THC due to: (6)

  • Genetics
  • Personality traits
  • Infrequent use
  • History of previous anxiety reactions
  • Presence of anxiety disorders or symptoms
  • Basal anxiety levels
  • Being female
  • The environment and the context in which the THC is consumed

This means that for a minority of people, ingesting even small amounts of THC — such as the kind found in full-spectrum CBD products — can actually cause anxiety, panic attacks, and related side effects.

How Much THC is in Full-Spectrum CBD Products?

full-spectrum-cbd-oil

Full-spectrum CBD products can legally contain up to 0.3% THC, so roughly speaking, a full-spectrum CBD oil can contain as much as 3 milligrams (mg) of THC per one milliliter (ml) of liquid. 

For example, here’s a third-party lab report of a high-quality full-spectrum CBD oil showing that the THC content is about 1.6 mg/ml of oil or about 0.17% (a bit below the 0.3% legal cutoff for hemp).

With this in mind, we can estimate that 1 ml (one full dropper in most cases) of your average full-spectrum CBD oil will contain 1-3 mg of THC. Even if you were to take two full droppers, this would only add up to 2-6 mg. This doesn’t seem like much, and for most people, it isn’t.

But for individuals who are highly sensitive to THC due to the risk factors we discussed earlier, this can be enough to cause or worsen anxiety.

My Experience With Anxiety From Full-Spectrum CBD

I’ve personally experienced an uncomfortable high and anxiety that lasted for 3 hours after taking roughly 80 mg of full-spectrum CBD oil. If I had to estimate, it contained about 3-4 mg of THC.

At first, I was surprised because full-spectrum CBD products had always relieved anxiety for me.

But after doing some research, it made total sense. I’ve smoked cannabis in the past and stopped using it after I began to get anxiety even from a few puffs. I also found many other reports of people who experienced anxiety and even panic attacks from full-spectrum CBD products.

Like other susceptible individuals, I’m so sensitive to THC that even the small amount present in full-spectrum CBD can make me feel anxious.

Using Full-Spectrum CBD for the First Time? Start Low

If you plan on using a full-spectrum CBD product and think it might make you anxious (especially if you have existing anxiety issues), be sure to follow the “start low and go slow” approach to cannabinoids recommended by clinical researchers (7). 

Start with a small 5-10 mg dose of CBD and wait for two hours to see the effects. If you don’t notice anything, you can try a higher dose, again stopping for two hours to see if you notice any difference. 

Use this method to find the full-spectrum CBD dose that provides you with anxiety relief or whichever benefit you’re looking for. 

Alternatives to Full-Spectrum CBD

If you’ve already experienced anxiety from full-spectrum CBD products, you have four options.

First, you can simply lower your dose. In my case, I found that as long as I kept my full-spectrum CBD oil doses below about 70 mg, I still got the calming effects and none of the anxiety. 

Another option is to switch to a different brand. After trying various full-spectrum CBD oils I’ve noticed more pronounced THC-related effects from certain brands.

These two options are ideal because full-spectrum CBD provides the greatest benefits thanks to the “entourage effect” produced by all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other active compounds working in synergy (8).

So even though THC is the issue, it’s nice to have a little bit for that extra boost to the entourage effect.

But if you want to play things safe, you can also go with broad-spectrum CBD products.

This type of extract contains the same ingredients as full-spectrum CBD but removes THC (small, undetectable traces might remain). This way, you can maximize the entourage effect while avoiding THC.

The last option is to use CBD isolate products, which contain only pure CBD and nothing else.

However, this isn’t ideal since you won’t be getting the synergistic benefits of all the other cannabinoids and terpenes found in full and broad-spectrum CBD.

Summing Up

Pure CBD can’t cause anxiety because it’s a non-intoxicating compound that has anxiety-relieving effects. However, full-spectrum CBD can potentially cause or worsen anxiety symptoms, depending on your sensitivity to THC.

While most people will be fine, some are so sensitive to THC that even a small amount is enough to trigger anxiety.

That’s why you should always check the third-party lab test reports (called Certificates of Analysis) to see the precise levels of THC in your product.

Keep in mind that although THC comes in two forms, delta-9 and delta-8, we’re mostly concerned about delta-9 because delta-8 is less psychoactive and naturally found in much smaller quantities (unless you’re using delta-8 products).

An example of a third-party Certificate of Analysis (CoA) showing that a full-spectrum CBD oil contains 1.6 mg of THC per ml.

There’s little regulation in the CBD industry, so it’s common for products to contain more or less CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids than advertised on the label.

You should never buy CBD from companies that fail to provide third-party test reports since they help you confirm that the CBD and THC levels are accurate and you’re getting your money’s worth.

Besides, these tests can also verify that there are no contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals.

16 thoughts on “Can Full-Spectrum CBD Cause Anxiety?”

  1. Thank you for this! I thought I was going crazy when I would wake up in the middle of the night with a full on panic attack. I found out it was related to the full spectrum CBD tincture I was using in the evenings. I found, as you did, that lowering the amount ingested made a significant difference.

    Reply
  2. whoa ! I had intense panic attacks in middle of night lasted for hours 3 nights & days went by before I figured out Full Spectrum vs. Broad. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone! I am a cannabis user & have NEVER felt this awful EVER. Had to drink alcohol to relax. I am not a drinker . Won’t be touching full spectrum ever again beware!

    Reply
  3. Thank you so much for writing this! It is so detailed and informative and exactly what I have been looking for. I have PTSD, major depression and the thing that is most debilitating to me is my panic attacks. I use to be able to out smoke anyone. Dabs for days and all the edibles. Never bothered me until one day it just triggered. Only thing I have found is being super super drunk I am able to take a few hits but it has been years but I miss the relaxing aspect of it specially with horrible insomnia and having to chase a toddler around. I’ve been wanting to try cbd but I know anything that makes me feel a little bit off and different triggers a major panic attack where I am incapable of doing anything even speaking. I feel like with the info you have provided I may be able to give it a shot. I’ll keep my panic attack medication near just incase and I will start on the lowest I can find as well. Now I just need to find a reputable source unless I want to go to a shop here. Thank you again!

    Reply
    • Yep, I’ve heard that story many times about being ok with cannabis and then suddenly getting anxiety one day and not having that same tolerance.

      Full-spectrum CBD should be a great alternative for you just be careful and start out with low doses and slowly work your way up. Glad the information helped you!

      Reply
  4. I can’t thank you enough for this article. I thought I was losing my mind because of the terrible anxiety I was feeling from the full sprectrum cbd. I should have educated myself before using the products.

    Reply
  5. Hi Gleb!

    Fantastic article. Once again, you’ve come to the rescue as I sit here with chest-wrenching anxiety. I’ve been taking 60/10/10mg of full-spectrum CBD/CBN/CBG for a few weeks now. But tonight, after reading several articles on 300mg being good for anxiety, then taking that much, I find that was not a great idea! lol And it took like 90 minutes for it to kick in, so it totally took me by surprise. I haven’t felt the effects of THC for quite a while, so I didn’t quite get it right away. Being stoned probably didn’t help either. 😉

    Reply
  6. I’m a small frame older female and have osteoporosis. I am so sensitive to many drugs. Tried all of the big pharma drugs for my osteoporosis and can’t tolerate them… too many side effects. I went to an herbalist and she suggested to try cbd oil for bones. I did read about broad vs full spectrum but didn’t really know if it would affect me. Three weeks in it finally dawned on me that the full spectrum is causing me such anxiety. Stopped it yesterday. Thank you for this. I typically have no anxiety.

    Reply
  7. I took 1/4 of the recommended dose of the max strength full-spectrum CBD and wondered why I’m so effing high and had a wave of panic at work. I’m pretty sensitive to THC I guess.

    Reply
  8. Thank you for this post. I just got off a panick attack for 30 drops of spectrum CBD . I just started last night but with 15 drops and I slept like a baby.
    I am a massage therapist and I was working on 2 hours session. Almost stopped because I thought I was going to faint lol But I have anxiety and panic attacks, so I recognized the symptoms. It las 90 minutes but I’m feeling better now. I thought all products with CND were “tranquilizers”

    Reply
    • Glad I can help! Depending on the potency of your CBD oil, 30 drops can be a pretty high dose. It’s surprising how quickly it can go from “calm and relaxed” to anxious when you’re sensitive to THC and go up in dose. But that’s cannabinoids for you; finding the perfect dose takes some time.

      Reply
  9. Are there any broad spectrum cbd brands you recommend? I also use the equilibria full spectrum brand, the drops and the gel caps, at a low dose but was feeling super anxious. And anxiety and sleep issues were the main reason I started it!! I’ve heard from a few people that cbd makes them more anxious too. This makes so much sense now!!

    Reply
  10. Ah I’m so glad I read this and that many other people experience this. I’ve been trying to take cbd for the last month and a couple weeks and at first I thought it was helping, wasn’t noticing it helping other than with sleep. Than my anxiety worsened as I kept using full spectrum silver bullet cbd1000mg.. like right after using it my anxiety would actually get worse. Led to panic attacks. Then I continued to use it and upped my dosage, even fell off at one point for 5 days, and picked it back up, just to try it again, now that I’ve been using it consistently everyday it made my anxiety so bad I have been having paranoia with it. Now I know why! I quit smoking weed because one day just smoking I started getting really anxious, smoked for years. Must have picked up a sensitivity ! I went right from quitting pot cold turkey after almost 8 years of smoking it , right to trying full spectrum cbd a couple days right after. Best to put down the cbd would make sense! Not everyone is the same. Helps some , makes others worse. Thank you for this article 🙏🏻 God bless❤️

    Reply

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