New Detailed Study Reveals British Consumer Habits

Self-perceived anxiety, sleep problems, stress, and general health and wellbeing are the top four reasons for consuming CBD, found a new study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research. The survey conducted on 387 CBD consumers mainly living in the UK shows that females are more likely to use CBD for anxiety and men for post-workout.

An anonymous online questionnaire with 20 questions was sent out to CBD users through email databases and social media. Data was collected between 10 January 2020 and 18 March 2020. To access the consumers, researchers collaborated with four different CBD brands and retailers based in the UK. Also, they approached consumers through Facebook and LinkedIn. A total of 430 people started the survey, of whom 15 (3.48%) did not respond to any questions, and 28 (6.5%) reported they did not use CBD themselves.

In regards to other medication use, there were a total of 467 responses. 39.4% of respondents reported not taking any other medication, 14.7% “painkillers”, and 14.7% “other” (40% anxiolytics and antidepressants).

Logistic regression on location purchased (CBD shop or other) found that those who lived outside of the UK and males had greater odds of purchasing CBD from an “other” location.

Women mostly use CBD for anxiety and insomnia

The sample (N = 387) consisted of 61.2% females, mostly between 25 and 54 years old (72.2%) and primarily based in the UK (77.4%). The top four reasons for using CBD were self-perceived anxiety (42.6%), sleep problems (42.5%), stress (37%), and general health and wellbeing (37%). Fifty-four percent reported using less than 50 mg CBD daily, and 72.6% used CBD sublingually. Also, the research shows that females had lower odds than males of using CBD for general health and wellbeing and post-workout muscle-soreness but had higher odds of using CBD for self-perceived anxiety and insomnia.

55+ mostly use CBD for pain

The reasons for consuming CBD differ with age. Older individuals had lower odds of using CBD for general health and wellbeing, stress, post-workout sore muscles, anxiety, skin conditions, focusing, and sleep but had higher odds of using CBD for pain. Respondents reported that CBD use was effective for stress, sleep problems, and anxiety in those who used the drug for those conditions.

The majority consumes CBD for up to six months

The majority of users take CBD sublingually for 3–6 months, and 69.7% of consumers had been using CBD for less than 1 year. Those 35–54 years old and those 55+ had greater odds of using CBD daily in comparison to less than daily. Females had lower odds of using CBD for greater than one year versus less than one year, suggesting females had used CBD for less time. Females had a greater odds of responding that they take CBD when they need it versus males. However, no other associations with age and sex on time of day emerged.

Only 4.1% had used CBD for more than five years, reflecting both that it is a fairly new phenomenon and an increasing interest in CBD in the UK, compared with the USA. A similar American survey reported that 34.6% had used CBD for less than one year and 53.2% more than five years.

People consume CBD multiple times a day

Reasons for consuming CBD can affect the number of daily usages. Compared with people not using CBD for anxiety, those who did self-medicate used CBD multiple times a day. Moreover, compared with those not using CBD for self-perceived stress, those who were self-medicating also used CBD multiple times a day. Those using CBD for sleep improvement had greater odds of using CBD in the evening and lower odds of using CBD in the morning. Those using CBD for self-perceived anxiety had lower odds of using CBD in the evening. No associations emerged between those who did and did not use CBD for self-perceived stress on the time of day they used CBD.

Young people are drinking and vaping CBD products 

The route of administration did not vary by sex. There were lower odds of those aged 55+ of vaping CBD as well as lower odds of those aged 35–55 and 55+ in comparison to 18–34 years old for drinking CBD. Self-reported anxiety and those using CBD for sleep improvement were associated with the sublingual route. Stress was not associated with the route of administration.

Those aged 35–54 years old had lower odds of using CBD for general health and wellbeing than those aged 18–34 years old (47.7%). Moreover, those aged 35–54 years old (37.1%) and 55+ (20.9%) had lower odds of using CBD for stress versus those aged 18–34 years old (51.4%). Those aged 34–55 (24.8%) had greater odds of using CBD for chronic pain versus 18–34 years old (14.7%). Those aged 55+ (5.1%) had lower odds of using CBD for post-workout sore muscles than 18–34 years old (15.5%). Those aged 35–54 years old (43.5%) and 55+ (19.8%) had lower odds of using CBD for self-perceived anxiety versus 18–34 years old (60.4%).

Young people use CBD for skin conditions and focusing

Furthermore, the use of CBD for arthritic/joint pain was higher in those 55+ (41.8%) and 35–54 years old (16.7%) in comparison to those 18–34 years old. Those aged 34–55 years old (5.9%) had lower odds of using CBD for skin conditions than those aged 18–34 years old (14.7%) and those aged 55+ (4.4%) had lower odds of using CBD to improve focus than those aged 18–34 years old (15.3%). Moreover, those aged 55+ (23.1% versus 18–34 years old: 41.4%) had lower odds of using CBD for sleep improvement.

For endometriosis and menstrual problems, the researchers found that those aged 34–55 had lower odds of using CBD for menstrual problems. Endometriosis did not vary by age. Depression, PTSD, fibromyalgia, ADHD, headache, asthma, THC counteract effects, and restless legs did not vary by sex or age. Confidence intervals could not be generated for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cancer, and nausea due to small sample sizes.

Leading reason: Self-perceived anxiety

One hundred sixty-five of 387 (42.6%) endorsed using CBD for self-perceived anxiety. In response to the question “how does CBD affect your anxiety levels”, participants responded that they felt less anxious (141/163 (86.5%)), followed by “no difference (I still suffer from the same degree of anxiety)” (21/163; 12.8%), and one person (0.6%) noted greater anxiety. Moreover, participants were asked how often they thought about problems when they were supposed to be relaxing, compared with before they started taking CBD. The results showed that 96/163 (58.9%) of respondents thought about their problems less than before, followed by “it hasn’t changed (I still think a lot about problems” (55/163; 33.7%), followed by “it hasn’t changed (I did not think about problems a lot before)” (11/163; 6.7%), followed by (1/163; 0.6%) of respondents reported thinking about problems more than before.

Self-perceived stress

When considering top reasons for consuming CBD, one hundred forty-five of 387 (37.5%) of respondents endorsed the use of CBD for self-perceived stress. Amongst those using CBD for stress, in response to the question “how does CBD affect your stress level”, participants responded that they felt less stressed (130/141; 92.2% followed by it does not affect my stress levels (I still feel stressed) (11/141; 7.8%). No respondent said that it increased their stress level. Adjusted logistic models comparing those who responded that CBD reduces their stress versus those who responded that they still have stress found no associations with age, sex, or location.

Self-perceived sleep problems

As the study was initially designed to address sleep, the researchers asked detailed questions regarding this. Improving sleep (125/387; 32.3%) and self-perceived insomnia (95/387; 24.5%) were the fourth and fifth-ranked endorsed reasons for using CBD, overall 42.5% endorsed sleep as a reason for use. Respondents said that CBD helped them sleep. When the analysis got restricted to respondents who selected using CBD for sleep improvement, there was considerable overlap between using CBD for sleep improvement and self-perceived insomnia. Regarding questions about the time it takes to fall asleep, 48.2%(73/124;) said CBD led them to fall asleep faster, followed by 29/124 (23.4%) who said it did not make a difference and still have a hard time falling asleep, followed by 22/124 (17.7%) who said it did not make a difference because they did not have a problem falling asleep beforehand. Age, sex, and location were not associated with the speed of falling asleep.

Reasons for Consuming CBD: Other reported benefits

The researchers asked participants to report on other effects they experience. From a total of 960 responses, the most prevalent effect was calm (21.3%), followed by decreased pain (19.5%). Only one percent reported feeling euphoric/high. In examining the “other” responses, 27/960 (9.3%) reported that they did not feel any benefits from the use of CBD.

Sex was associated with sexual enhancement where males reported experiencing more sexual enhancement (9.9%) than females (2.9%). There were no other associations between sex and other CBD benefits. Those aged 55+ (23.1%) and those aged 35–54 years old (16.8%) reported taking less of their other medications in comparison to those aged under 34 years old (9.9%). Those ages 55+ reported experiencing more “no positive experiences” (14.3%) in comparison to those under 34 (2.7%).

CBD side-effects

A total of 388 responses were made, of whom 277/388 (71%) were logged as not experiencing any side-effects. Dry mouth was experienced by 44/388 (11%), and 13/288 (3%) experienced fatigue. All other side-effects were reported less than 2% (e.g. dizziness, nausea, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, headache, anxiety, psychotic symptoms, sexual problems, trouble concentrating). No respondents reported vomiting, fainting, liver problems (raised liver enzymes in a blood test), or seizures. Adjusted logistic models show no associations of age or sex with “no side effects” or fatigue. The location of the participants was associated with dry mouth, and those who lived outside of the UK had greater odds of experiencing dry mouth.

With few variations, the reasons for use in the British study were similar to the results from a study of 400 patients in New Zealand, who were prescribed sublingual CBD oil with doses ranging from 40 to 300 mg/day. 

Reviewed by Sasha Bajilo, founder of ILESOL Pharmaceuticals, an industrial scale producer of CBD products and formulations. Expert on Hemp/Cannabis policy, member of the Croatian Ministry of Health regulatory commission for medical cannabis.