CBD vs. Zoloft: Can You Use CBD as a Natural Alternative to Zoloft?
The short answer: Yes, CBD oil could be a natural alternative to Zoloft or similar prescription anti-depressants. Many people already have… and they’re loving the results.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, has gained runaway momentum among the medical community.
This is partly due to its notoriety for treating seizures, and partly because CBD has such a wide variety of health claims, many of which are backed by sound scientific research.
One of these claims is that CBD could be a natural alternative to Zoloft, a prescription anti-depressant.
Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs) like Zoloft are typically prescribed for depression and anxiety — two symptoms that CBD has been internationally praised for helping to manage.
CBD vs. Zoloft: Understanding The Science Behind CBD
Before we dive into specifics on using CBD as a natural alternative to Zoloft, it’s important to understand what exactly CBD is and how it works.
CBD is one of over 100 organic compounds that are naturally produced by the Cannabis plant. these compounds are called Cannabinoids
In 2018, CBD was made federally legal and nope, it doesn’t get you ‘high,’ ‘stoned,’ or even ‘couch-locked’…, just calm, coherent and relaxed.
Cannabinoids are important because they interact with a network of receptors which are part of our Central Nervous System –
This network of receptors is known as the Endo-Cannabinoid System.
The main role of the Endocannabinoid System is to maintain balance or homeostasis in the body.
CBD vs. Zoloft: Interacting with the ENDO-CANNABINOID SYSTEM (ECS)
The Endo-Cannabinoid System is one of our most important internal bodily systems.
The ECS is responsible for maintaining balance in the human body. The endo-cannabinoid system works similar to a thermostat.
If the temperature in your house if too cold or too hot, the thermostat kicks on to normalize the temperature.
If anxiety, inflammation, or a pain response is activated in the body, the endo-cannabinoid system kicks on to normalize (or balance) the body's response.
CBD vs. Zoloft: CBD INSIDE YOUR BODY
CBD and THC both interact (although differently) with two types of ‘endo-cannabinoid receptors’.
Cannabinoid Receptors Type 1 (CB1) – CB1 receptors are critical to our central nervous system and are most heavily concentrated in our brain and spinal cord.
Cannabinoid Receptors Type 2 (CB2) – CB2 receptors are concentrated in various parts of the immune system, the skin cells, and most internal organs.
Because the Endocannabinoid System is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body, its functions are varied.
This includes regulation of pain, inflammation, anxiety, immune system response, addiction response, and many other bodily system responses, including those that lead to depression.
These actions, combined with CBD’s lack of side effects, make CBD a great candidate for the treatment of depression and anxiety and could be a natural alternative to Zoloft or other SSRIs.
Core Reasons Behind Depression and Anxiety
SSRIs change your brain chemistry, but that doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong in the first place.
The SSRI itself will create an imbalance in serotonin levels, which makes getting off of SSRIs quite difficult and unpleasant.
We’ve been taught from drug commercials paid for by drug companies that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and that medications like Zoloft are needed to correct the imbalance.
However, there is actually very little, if any, evidence to support this ‘chemical imbalance theory.’
According to medical researchers, depression is much more complex than just a chemical imbalance in the brain that can easily be cured with medication.
Depression is triggered by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.
Or said in another way, your lifestyle choices, relationships, and your coping skills matter just as much, if not more so, than your genes.
10 Risk Factors for Depression Include:
- Loneliness and isolation
- Lack of social support
- Recent stressful life experiences
- Family history of depression
- Marital or relationship problems
- Financial strain
- Early childhood trauma or abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Unemployment or underemployment
- Health problems or chronic pain
All of these risk factors are rather unpleasant situations, and I think most people can agree that any one of these factors (let alone a few of them combined) can easily weigh on your mental health.
However, there are healthy ways to deal with these situations through exercise, meditation, and therapy.
None of which have side effects or cause dependency.
How SSRIs Like Zoloft “Manage” Depression and Anxiety
SSRIs work on a basic level by increasing the level of serotonin available for the brain to absorb.
Serotonin is a chemical in the brain which has many functions but is commonly referred to as the ‘happy chemical’ because it contributes to feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
In the brain, serotonin is typically ‘tossed’ from one nerve cell synapse traveling across the nerve gap and caught by a ‘serotonin receptor’ on another nerve cell on the other side of the nerve gap.
(similar to a pitcher throwing a baseball across home plate to the catcher).
This same action happens millions of times on different nerve cells in the brain.
But sometimes serotonin is ‘tossed’ by one nerve cell but is dropped by the receptor.
When this happens, the serotonin falls into the nerve gap and is ‘scooped up’ by the serotonin ‘Re-Uptake’.
The principle behind SSRIs is to block or inhibit the ‘serotonin re-uptake,’ and by doing this it creates a reservoir of additional serotonin in the nerve gap.
Because the serotonin re-uptake is blocked, the serotonin cannot be ‘scooped up’ and the ‘serotonin receptors’ now have an abundance of serotonin floating around which they can receive and absorb.
This increase in serotonin absorption increases overall serotonin levels and can create short term relief of depression symptoms and short term reduction in anxiety.
The downside of this is that over time, because of the increase in serotonin levels, the body slowly cuts back on the amount of serotonin it naturally produces.
This causes the body to become dependent on the SSRI in order to be able to maintain normal serotonin levels.
The FDA has also labeled all SSRIs with a black box warning for its long term effects of suicidal thoughts in teens and young adults.
Why Do Doctors Prescribe SSRI’s Like Zoloft?
If SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft come with a black box warning and a likeliness for dependency, then why are doctors still prescribing them?
Because truthfully, they do work short term and often the long term side effects are overlooked by the patients’ immediate needs.
SSRIs are not considered “addictive” because you will not crave the need to take an SSRI.
However, SSRIs are dependence-forming.
Stopping abruptly is dangerous, and you will have to wean yourself off of SSRIs to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
So, the real definition of ‘non-addictive’ seems to be up for debate.
Doctors in many medical marijuana states are well aware of the current research on SSRI side effects and have begun prescribing cannabis (both CBD and THC) for patients with anxiety and depression.
As a result, it’s becoming more common for CBD to be used as a natural alternative like Zoloft and other SSRIs, and there’s evidence to support a strong case for it.
Managing Your Depression and Anxiety with CBD
Similar to SSRIs like Zoloft, CBD also targets the serotonin receptors in the brain, but in a much different fashion.
CBD is non-addictive and you can’t become dependent on CBD.
This is one of the most attractive differences between CBD and Zoloft.
A medical study using rodents published by the British Journal of Pharmacology concluded that “CBD, by activating specifically the ‘5-HT1A serotonin receptors’, can reduce both mental and physical behavioral responses to stress”
According to Psychology Today, a double-blind, randomized clinical trial looked at the benefits of CBD for psychosis, which can occur in severe cases of depression.
In the study, 40 volunteer patients were given CBD or a prescription anti-psychotic drug. Both treatments helped patient symptoms equally, however, the group taking CBD enjoyed many fewer side effects and no problems with movement, weight gain, or hormonal deregulation.
There are many more pre-clinical studies that come to the same results – CBD looks promising but needs more funding for clinical trials.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, CBD needs more research, but that does not mean that CBD doesn’t help.
It simply means that there haven’t been properly controlled clinical trials to support a solid scientific conclusion for CBD to treat anxiety or depression.
CBD and Zoloft: Patient Reviews on Using CBD as a Natural Alternative to Zoloft
Since clinical studies can take years to perform, a lot of the evidence for CBD’s effectiveness comes from anecdotal evidence in the form of patient reviews.
The good news: positive patient reviews for CBD instead of SSRIs do not seem to be hard to find.
Here are a few examples to support using CBD as a natural alternative to Zoloft or other SSRIs:
“It may take time getting my mind and body acclimated to zero meds, but the time investment was totally worth it. CBD treats my symptoms far more effectively than SSRIs ever did, and now I’m not adding addictive and habit-forming medications to my already complicated-enough body. CBD has greatly enhanced my mental health, and there is a mountain of evidence that shows it has huge potential to help those with depression or anxiety.” – Kathryn
“CBD has been a lot cheaper and more effective, without having to worry about the adverse side effects. I replaced multiple medications with a twice daily regimen of full spectrum CBD oil and I couldn’t be happier… But everybody’s going to be a little different on how effective it is for them. So, the best thing I could suggest is to try it and see how it works for you.” – Cody Sims
“CBD Oil may not be a cure for depression, but it does help with serotonin levels in the brain! I find my mood is nearly always upbeat. I’m confident, sociable, happy, mindful, focused, and generally, in great health. My anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD are immensely calmed down with the CBD Oil. Excruciating pain from a bone spur in my hip was no longer an issue.” – Marisol
Using CBD as a Natural Alternative to Zoloft and Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms
If you’re currently on an SSRI and plan on quitting, it’s not recommended to do so ‘cold turkey.’
SSRIs such as Zoloft are powerful medications that can make you dependent over time. Gradually weaning yourself off is a must in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
This may take a few weeks to months to achieve, but CBD can also help assist with withdrawal symptoms.
It can be beneficial to take CBD oil to calm the aggravation that inevitably comes with weaning off of SSRIs.
CBD and Zoloft: Opting for a Natural Alternative to SSRIs
Depression, anxiety, and mental health in general are commonly overlooked in today’s world.
Nobody want to be told that they have to make lifestyle changes in order to address their mental health.
It’s much easier to just take a pill like Zoloft and feel better quickly.
The problem is that a quick fix like taking a pill may have longer-lasting long-term side effects.
Although more research is needed before achieving FDA approval for depression and anxiety, states with medical marijuana programs already have doctors prescribing both CBD and THC for patients looking for a natural alternative to Zoloft and other SSRIs.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying CBD is a magical cure.
It’s not. But CBD does offer a serious side-effect-free option to those looking for a healthier alternative to their SSRI medications.
Most people see the best effects when combining CBD with exercise, meditation, and positive lifestyle changes.
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