The wide-ranging medical effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) stems from the way it interacts with our endocannabinoid system to reduce the inflammation at the root of many diseases and disorders. But for people without those medical conditions, cannabidiol is still highly therapeutic. Researchers, along with CBD consumers, have found that CBD can ease stress, reduce anxiety, alleviate pain, calm moods and even help you come down from a too-intense high. And now, Brazilian researchers say they’re ready to add another benefit to the list. According to a just-published study, CBD can help reduce aggressive behavior. Who knew the chillest molecule in cannabis’ arsenal could get even more chill?
New Study Says CBD Decreases Aggressive Behavior
Aggressive behavior is extremely common, but it’s neurological causes are little understood. What makes people lash out, act violently or develop aggressive tendencies? And what environmental factors make those aggressive behaviors worse, or appear in the first place? Scientists and medical researchers already know that aggression can be treated with anti-anxiety, anti-depressant or anti-psychotic drugs. And since previous studies have shown that CBD produces effects similar to all of those drugs, researchers decided to take a closer look at using the cannabinoid to reduce aggressiveness.
Interestingly, despite the uptick in studies devoted to CBD over the past two decades, almost no research has been conducted into CBD’s effects on aggressive behavior. But a group of scientists at the University of Sao Paulo’s Ribeirao Preto Medical School in Brazil decided to change that.
As with most preliminary research into the medical and therapeutic uses of cannabis, the Brazilian scientists conducted their study on mice. Mice models are common experimental methods, especially when it comes to testing new uses for therapeutic compounds like CBD and other drugs.
“We used a model known as the resident-intruder test, which induces aggressiveness in an animal kept in isolation for several days,” explained the leader of the study, Professor Francisco Silveira Guimaraes. Essentially, the experiment involves keeping mice in isolation cages for several days. Then, an intruder, typically another mouse, is introduced in the cage. The intruder triggers an aggressive response from the mouse kept in isolation, so scientists call this behavior isolation-induced aggression. It’s a tried and true way to piss off mice.
Using a variety of control groups and different dosages of CBD, researches found that CBD performed exactly as expected. “Our study shows that cannabidiol can inhibit aggressiveness,” Guimaraes said. But how?
CBD Reduces Aggression by Activating Neurotransmitters
To test for how CBD reduces aggression, the researchers injected four groups of six to eight male mice with different doses of CBD. A fifth group, the control, received no CBD injections. That control group exhibited the classic aggressive response to intruders. In fact, they attacked intruders more than two dozen times, with the first attacks occurring just two minutes after confronting an intruder.
But the groups that received CBD injections, on the other hand, were slower to attack intruders and attacked less often. The group given the lowest dose, 5 mg/kg CBD, didn’t attack intruders until four minutes into the encounter. And the number of attacks decreased by 50 percent.
The second group, which received a 15 mg/kg dose of CBD, took 11 minutes to attack intruders, and only attacked them a handful of times. This group actually exhibited the least aggressive behavior of all the groups. Interestingly, researchers observed that higher doses of CBD than 15 mg/kg didn’t reduce aggressiveness any further. In fact, higher doses, like 30 mg/kg and 60 mg/kg caused mice to attack a little bit sooner, and more often.
The authors of the study say those results are in line with research into the use of CBD as an anti-depressant, where extremely high doses produced lower effects despite initial gains. In other words, dialing in the right dose of CBD is crucial.
And that’s because of the way CBD interacts with the brain and the endocannabinoid system (ECS). According to Guimaraes, CBD reduces aggression by “facilitating the activation of two receptors,” one that produces the effects of serotonin, and a second, the CB1 receptor, that’s part of the ECS.
CBD Could Be Therapeutically Useful Treatment for Aggression
Researchers still don’t know exactly why those two receptors affect aggressiveness in animals. But they were able to show that CBD activates them in ways that definitely reduce aggressive behavior. It’s an important finding that should open to door to further research into how CBD can help treat aggressiveness and related neuropsychiatric disorders.