Today’s culture of hyper-stress, isolating competition, and burning out is plaguing GenZ and leaving little time for relaxation, with no respite in sight. Luckily, the CBD industry is an emerging marketplace whose products may help an entire generation find a little more chill.

Cannabidiol attenuates the aggressiveness induced by social isolation.

For the past 20 years, CBD, short for cannabidiol, has been studied in various contexts; until now, very little research has been conducted on its effects on aggressive behavior. The aggressiveness associated with isolation is normally treated with antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs, but scientists from the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP) in Brazil reached the above conclusion via research conducted under a protocol named “resident intruder”. The study was based on a mouse model, and the results were published in the journal “Progress” in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.

CBD is a molecule extracted from cannabis that does not induce psychoactive, “high” effects. As a result, it has recently drawn interest from researchers in a variety of medical fields, such as epilepsy treatment and psychology, as a possible avenue for treatment. In the research study conducted, the scientists proved that CBD can help subdue aggression in mice via serotonin receptors as well as the endocannabinoid system. The compound’s effect on the latter is already well-documented.

Social Isolation – An Overview

The human being is a social animal. Our biological, psychological, and social systems have evolved to thrive in a collaborative network of people. But as people age, these social networks are likely to become thin, thus leading to isolation and loneliness. In laymen’s terms: social isolation means absence from social contacts, lack of interaction, and atrophying relationships with family, friends, relatives and “society at large”.

Social isolation is considered as a risk factor, for it is the leading cause of many diseases, aggressiveness and disability that can occur in the course of existing disease. Social isolation and loneliness are discrete issues, according to a report released by a subdivision of the Administration for Community Living, the  Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They make the differentiation by explaining that some people feel lonely despite being surrounded by family and friends.

The research study also states that social isolation and loneliness are the leading causes of a variety of physical and mental conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weak immune system, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease and even death. The majority of people suffering from social isolation are those separated from friends or family, those affected by death or retirement, or those who feel ineffectual in their daily endeavors.

Conversely, people who engage in meaningful, productive activities and are socially active tend to live a longer and healthy life. Because each of these factors contributes to an enhanced mood or a sense of purpose, these type of activities help maintain well-being and improve the cognitive function.

Conventional Treatment for Social Isolation

The following therapies are conventional treatments for addressing the above enumerated issues. These therapies aid recovery from social isolation, allowing a patient to pursue a more fulfilling and happy life. Failure to seek treatment could allow social isolation to worsen or remain detrimental.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy –In this type of therapy, a patient is provided with practical tools to aid in coping with social isolation. The ultimate goal is to recognize the moments when negative thoughts or self-talk take mental toll on the patient. When undergoing this therapy, the patient begins to challenge these false perceptions and learns to replace them with more realistic and positive thoughts. As is specified in the Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-analyses research study, CBT is moderately effective at reducing anger problems.

Exposure Therapy – In this type of therapy, phobias are treated, which makes it an effective treatment to deal with social isolation. In exposure therapy, a patient works under the guidance of a therapist and is gradually and safely introduced to a social situation that they would typically avoid. The therapy guides the patient towards a lifestyle that includes socializing. In the research study conducted by DiGiuseppe & Tafrate in 2003,it was observed that different types of therapy exposure therapy, namely behavioral self-management and anxiety management training, have positive effects on both expression of anger and aggressive behavior.

Social Isolation Therapy –In this type of therapy, a person who suffers from social isolation issues can regain some degree of control over their life. When a patient decides on the goal of a stable life, they wish to maintain the methodology that therapist prescribe to achieve this. It can also help in the planning of a roadmap and streamlined approach to more generalized goals. In the research study conducted by Paul A. Stevenson and Jan Rillich, it was noted that individuals reared in isolation have higher aggression, whereas aggression is repressed in individuals reared together.

Case Study

The experiment was conducted to determine whether the effects of CBD could alter the resident’s aggressive behavior. The team injected four groups of mice, each comprised of 6-8 male mice of weight between 30-40 grams, with differing doses of CBD.

In the fifth group, no CBD was injected; this was the control group. The mice in this group displayed classical resident-intruder behavior. On average, it was observed that the first attacks by residents on intruders occurred after two minutes of confrontation.

In the first group, resident mice were given cannabidiol dose equivalent to 5mg/kg. They began attacking four minutes after intruders entered the cage. It was observed that control mice took twice as long to begin attacking intruders. In total, the number of attacks was reduced by half.

In the second group, resident mice were given cannabidiol dose equivalent to 15mg/kg, and they behaved the least aggressively of all the mice. They began attacking eleven minutes after intruders entered the cage. It was observed that the number of attacks averaged only approximately five per cage.

In the third and fourth groups, resident mice were given cannabidiol doses equivalent to 30 mg/kg and 60 mg/kg, respectively. However, these higher dosages did not result in more intense inhibition of their aggressiveness. In fact, it was observed that the attacks began sooner, and the number of attacks was also slightly higher.

The conclusion drawn from this experiment was that higher doses of cannabidiol led to lower effects after an initial gain. The researchers are of the opinion that “in our experiment, if we had tested 120 mg/kg on a group of mice, we might not have obtained any inhibition of the resident’s aggressiveness at all.”

Clinical trials of CBD are not limited to this research only. Other clinical trials in Brazil focus on the effects of CBD on humans with bipolar depression..

How CBD can be the best alternative treatment?

In the research study conducted, the mice were isolated for ten days, which made them aggressive and resulted in attacks when they were socialized with others. As is denoted by the decrease in attacks amongst dosed mice, there exists a connection between CBD and reduced aggression.

CBD is the best alternative treatment for aggressiveness because CBD activates two kinds of receptors. One is the 5-HT1A receptor– it helps control mood because it binds with serotonin. Meanwhile, the CB1 receptor, a part of the body’s endocannabinoid system–a network of neurotransmitters and receptors which are responsible for modulating stress response–is influenced indirectly.

Serotonin neurotransmitters help to regulate mood and social behavior, and the endo-cannabinoid system is involved in our learning processes and memory building. Aggression creates disturbances in both the serotonin and endocannabinoid mechanisms. This, in turn, can be attenuated by CBD, as it promotes regulation of both of these systems. It should be noted, however, that author Sabrina Lisboa, Ph.D., a post-doc at the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto Medical School, specifies that we don’t know howCB1 and 5-HT1A receptors act to mitigate aggression.

In the Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: Observational Data Meta-analysis paper, it was again noted that CBD reduces aggressiveness induced by social isolation.

Views Shared By The Researchers

The researchers assert that CBD is responsible for the activation of two receptors that are responsible for producing calming effects in the brain. As is consistent with other compounds extracted from cannabis, CBD does not lead to any sort of dependence. It neither makes people “high” nor leads to effects that are result of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

In the study, Guimarães and colleagues wrote: “the marijuana compound associated with these effects is CBD decreased c-Fos protein expression, a neuronal activity marker, in the lateral periaqueductal gray (lPAG) in social-isolated mice exposed to the resident-intruder test, indicating the potential involvement of this brain region in the drug effects.”

The team of researchers hold the view that overall, our findings suggest that CBD is therapeutically useful to treat aggressive behaviors that are usually associated with psychiatric disorders.

Yet, A Long Way To Go….

While the team of Brazil-based researchers are enthusiastic for CBD’s potential for medicinal use, this connection needs to be evaluated in detail. As a result of varying restrictions placed by the FDA, CBD’s regulatory landscape in the US is inconsistent, and making unconfirmed, health-based claims can lead to statutory warnings from the FDA. This threat, however, should not slow research into CBD’s medicinal uses. In fact, increased research on the medical benefits of CBD is needed reveal–or refute–evidence that it can reduce aggressiveness induced by social isolation.

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