Comparing CBD with Xanax and Antidepressants: Effects & Risks

CBD, Xanax, and antidepressants have become prevalent in the treatment of anxiety and depression disorders in Australia. Incidences of these mental illnesses have sharply increased in the past few years. Close to half of Australians have experienced a form of mental disorder like anxiety in their lifetimes. More than ever people are seeking support and tools to help them manage their mental state. Compounds like CBD, antidepressants and Xanax are anxiolytic or calming and can help aid individuals in maintaining a calm mind. While each of these substances is effective and useful, they all have differing usage scenarios, side effects and drawbacks. In many cases, it is better to not use any at all. But if you’re considering trying CBD or other natural means to help with your mental condition, understanding these dynamics is critical to make informed decisions selecting and using a product. While CBD is comparable to some anxiety and depression medications, it can’t substitute them most of the time and may be better utilized as a supportive tool in helping with comorbidities. When and how you use these treatment options will depend on your condition, how well you respond to each, your personal preferences and your physiology. Some people react better to CBD than traditional medications for mood like SSRIs while others see little benefit. You’ll need to explore options with your doctor as well as experiment to discover the best-fit option for you.

Understanding CBD, Xanax, and Antidepressants

Before delving into comparisons, it is crucial to grasp the basics of CBD, Xanax, and antidepressants. Let’s start with CBD.

What is CBD?

CBD or cannabidiol is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is naturally produced by the plant and has several important therapeutic effects like the ability to help lower anxiety, improve mood and may assist in mitigating depression. Unlike its counterpart cannabinoid THC, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects as it is not psychoactive. THC can exacerbate many mental disorders because of its psychoactivity. CBD acts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Many of this system’s receptors and messaging pathways occur in the brain and can modulate the mind. Because of this, it offers relief for several mental conditions. It does this through endocannabinoids like anandamide. Endocannabinoids have powerful abilities in the brain to influence serotonin and other brain receptors that produce feel-good and calming chemicals.

How Does CBD Work?

CBD interacts with CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. CB1 receptors are those located in the brain and spine and are most important for mental disorder treatment. The cannabinoid is also able to directly modulate many neurotransmitter receptors including serotonin, the vanilloid or pain receptors, opioid receptors and GABA receptors. Each of these receptor interactions offers distinct benefits. For example, CBD’s ability to influence the vanilloid receptors makes it excel in suppressing certain pain types.

Because of its various interactions with brain receptors, CBD helps in regulating processes including pain sensation, mood, appetite, stress and immune function. One of the key benefits of CBD is its potential to reduce neuroinflammation which can occur in neurons and degrade their function. CBD offers neuroprotective capacities that help users build mental resilience, calmness and better. Furthermore, CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system has been found to promote a sense of relaxation and calmness. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety or stress-related disorders.

Using CBD for Anxiety

When it comes to CBD in Australia, there is a wide range of products available in the market. It can be taken in a variety of ways, from CBD oils and tinctures to edibles and topicals. Individuals have various options to choose from to best suit their needs. CBD oils are used orally. Topicals like CBD balm can be applied directly to the skin for targeted relief from pain or inflammation. Research is suggesting that CBD may have anxiety-lowering properties and could be beneficial in managing conditions like social anxiety or general anxiety disorder. This is why many compare it to Xanax and other anxiety medications such as Zoloft or Prozac which are designed to calm the mind and mitigate symptoms of anxiousness like racing thoughts. 

Additionally, CBD has shown promise in helping those with depression. The cannabinoid itself displays several properties similar to SSRIs like Prozac in normalizing serotonin levels. Terpenes in CBD oil such as linalool and myrcene have also been shown to display depression-suppressing effects. Many experts are now exploring terpenes and cannabinoids in-depth for their functions on serotonin and their ability to help promote a better mood. They may provide a natural alternative to more side effect-prone pharmaceuticals in helping to treat depression.

What is Xanax?

Xanax, also known by its generic name alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine medication that functions as a central nervous system depressant. It is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain. It is important to note that Xanax is a prescription medication and should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional. 

While it can be effective in managing anxiety symptoms, Xanax also carries the risk of dependence and withdrawal symptoms if misused or taken for an extended period. Furthermore, Xanax is classified as a Schedule 4 controlled substance in Australia due to its potential for abuse. This means that it has a lower abuse potential compared to drugs in higher schedules but can still lead to physical and psychological dependence.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax works by enhancing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. When anxiety strikes, it surfaces as overactivity in the brain’s neurons. In particular, it elevates the sympathetic nervous system’s stress response. This is an excitatory activity that causes excessive worry and overthinking. In severe cases, it can lead to panic attacks and acute mental distress. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate the excitability of neurons. By increasing the effectiveness of GABA, Xanax produces a calming effect on the central nervous system, which can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders. It’s a fast-acting chemical that is metabolized within minutes but reaches its peak effects after an hour or two. It is important to note that Xanax should be used in the short term only and under close medical supervision. Long-term use carries a serious risk of addiction.

What are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants comprise a diverse range of medications used to manage depressive disorders. They work by altering brain chemistry, specifically by increasing the availability of certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. There are different classes of antidepressants. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Each class has its mechanism of action and potential side effects. It is important to note that antidepressants are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Finding the right antidepressant and dosage often requires a trial-and-error approach, as individuals may respond differently to different medications. Additionally, it may take several weeks for the full effects of an antidepressant to be felt.

Antidepressants are not only used to manage depression but can also be prescribed for other conditions such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can help regulate mood, improve sleep, and reduce feelings of sadness or hopelessness in users. Like Xanax however they similarly can become addictive, form reliance, cause unintended mental side effects and even negative shifts in personality or mood. They can also have interactions with other medications. Regular monitoring and follow-up appointments are essential to ensure the medication’s effectiveness, alongside dosage adjustments if needed.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants work by balancing neurotransmitter levels in the brain. The most commonly targeted neurotransmitters include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, plays a crucial role in mood regulation. By increasing serotonin levels in the brain, antidepressants can help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve overall mood. Norepinephrine and dopamine are also involved in mood regulation and play important roles in motivation and Behavioral reward systems. By modulating the levels of these neurotransmitters, antidepressants can help restore balance and alleviate symptoms of depression.

It is worth mentioning that the exact mechanisms of action of antidepressants are not fully understood and can vary depending on the specific medication. Different classes of antidepressants target different neurotransmitters and receptors, allowing for a range of treatment options. 

Comparing CBD, Xanax, and Antidepressants

Now that we have examined the mechanisms of action behind CBD, Xanax, and antidepressants, let’s compare their effects.

CBD vs. Xanax

Short-term Effects & Benefits

When it comes to offering fast relief from anxiety symptoms, Xanax generally provides a more immediate calming effect due to its ability to rapidly enhance GABA activity and be absorbed quickly. This leads to a rapid reduction in anxiety and a sense of relaxation within minutes. But due to this powerful and quick onset, it can also cause drowsiness and impair cognitive function. In contrast, CBD takes longer to produce noticeable effects. It typically needs to be taken several weeks to reach its full range of benefits.

CBD’s onset of effects is also slower compared to Xanax and more mild in terms of anxiolytic power. For example, Xanax can be taken to deal with panic attacks or acute anxious bouts. CBD is not effective for these types of immediate emergency needs. It takes some time for it to be transported to cannabinoid, serotonin and GABA receptors. The body metabolizes it more slowly and generally, it will take at least an hour or more to reach full effect. Depending on the method of ingestion, this timeframe can be longer. For example, edible CBD will be more slowly digested and released, making it slower-acting. It’s better suited for more mild anxious feelings or stress versus severe generalized anxiety. On the plus side, it also isn’t addictive like Xanax and is safer for those who don’t tolerate the drug.

Long-term Effects & Benefits

While Xanax can provide immediate relief, it is generally not recommended for long-term use due to its potential for dependence and addiction. This is one of its major drawbacks. Sustainable use of Xanax for anxiety is not only unrealistic – it can be dangerous. A range of side effects are seen with consistent long-term use. CBD on the other hand is considered a safer option for long-term management of anxiety and depression. It has minimal risk of side effects, even when used at high doses over a long period. Part of this tolerance individuals see with CBD is due to it simply being a less potent compound than Xanax. It doesn’t have the same strength of action in the brain’s receptors and as such has much less risk of side effects. In addition, it is a natural compound that the body can easily metabolized. The human body contains cannabinoid receptors specifically designed to absorb and make use of cannabinoids like CBD. In contrast, Xanax is a pharmaceutical drug that the body has not evolved to make effective use of.

CBD vs. Xanax Side Effects

Xanax can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and coordination difficulties. It is associated with a high risk of dependence and withdrawal symptoms when used long-term or in high doses. It should only be used under the guidance of a medical professional and with caution. While Xanax is primarily prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, it is important to note that it is not a long-term solution. Xanax is intended for short-term use and should be used in conjunction with therapy and other non-pharmacological interventions to address the underlying causes of anxiety. It is crucial to follow the prescribed dosage and duration of use to minimize the risk of dependence. If used over a long period it will lead to dependence and may require specific therapies to help users wean off the chemical safely.

In contrast, CBD can be used both for short and long-term anxiolytic benefits. It won’t be as useful in providing immediate relief within minutes as Xanax but also has fewer side effects that occur much more rarely. Some of these include dry mouth, appetite changes, drowsiness, upset stomach and fatigue. Most people don’t experience any of these. The risk of side effects is low with CBD but can be higher at larger dosage ranges. 

Can you take CBD with Xanax?

No, it is not safe or advised to use CBD in combination with Xanax. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea. Firstly, Xanax or Alprazolam is metabolized in the liver. The liver produces enzymes such as CYP3A4 that work to break down toxins and prevent them from causing harm to the body while absorbing useful compounds. To absorb CBD, the body also uses this same enzyme in the liver. Using both Xanax and CBD simultaneously is risky due to CBD suppressing the levels of the enzyme as it’s processed causing an increased risk of toxicity and detrimental side effects.

Using both compounds simultaneously also greatly increases the risk of side effects. While CBD is used on its own it’s very safe and well tolerated, and mild side effects can become more severe if combined with Xanax. Issues like drowsiness and lethargy or stomach aches can be significantly worsened. In severe cases combining the two chemicals could lead to overdose, poisoning or death. Consult your doctor before trying CBD with any prescription medication like Xanax.

CBD vs Antidepressants

Short-term Effects & Benefits

Antidepressants work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain over time and similarly to CBD aren’t typically felt immediately. SSRIs like Prozac gradually increase serotonin over weeks. Generally, they won’t be noticed for up to 2 weeks and can take even longer to reach their full potential. Most users require antidepressants to be employed over long periods for results and they’re much slower in action than Xanax or CBD. But with the right usage pattern and consistency, they can lead to improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression.

Long-term Effects & Benefits

Both CBD and antidepressants are often used for their ability to provide long-term therapeutic benefits for mood and depressive symptoms. CBD has shown promise in mitigating depression, reducing anxiety, and even promoting calmness. It can be even more effective at reducing depression when combined with terpenes like myrcene which also offer mood-promoting benefits. Studies have indicated that CBD can interact with various receptors in the body, including serotonin receptors, which may underlie its potential antidepressant effects.

Similarly, antidepressants used consistently over time can help regulate mood and improve overall well-being. They are generally more powerful than CBD for treating depression directly as they’re specifically designed to modulate serotonin production. For example, antidepressants are much better at treating major depressive disorders and more acute forms of depression or mood disorders. CBD is generally better used for mild depression symptoms or mood issues.

SSRIs can also be used to help with anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions. By increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain, antidepressants help to restore the balance of neurotransmitters and alleviate symptoms of depression. However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of antidepressants can vary from person to person, and they may come with side effects which can worsen at higher doses.

CBD vs Antidepressants Side Effects

Antidepressants can have a range of side effects depending on the specific medication. Common side effects include nausea, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain. It is crucial to work closely with a doctor to find the most suitable antidepressant and manage any potential side effects. Finding the right antidepressant can be a trial-and-error process, as different individuals may respond differently to various medications. Close monitoring by a healthcare professional is essential to ensure the medication is effective and the side effects are manageable.

While generally well-tolerated, CBD can cause side effects such as dry mouth, drowsiness, and changes in appetite. But unlike SSRIs, it has little potential for abuse, addiction or withdrawals. These types of effects aren’t seen with antidepressants. It can also interact with certain medications, so it is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting CBD. 

Can you take CBD with Antidepressants?

Most antidepressants are processed by the liver similarly to CBD and Xanax. This is problematic if you take them with CBD due to the interactions between CBD and liver enzymes. Combining prescription antidepressants with CBD could cause adverse effects or poisoning due to straining the liver excessively and this should be avoided. Likewise, both chemicals influence brain chemistry. It’s not fully known how antidepressants will interact with CBD and the changes this may cause to your mental state and neurotransmitter levels. But it’s not advisable to experiment here. The class of antidepressant and dosage you use will influence this risk. Particularly high-risk antidepressants that shouldn’t be mixed with CBD include MAOIs and tricyclics. Higher doses of CBD and antidepressants in combination will lead to greater negative side effect risks. Check-in with your doctor or psychiatrist first if you’re using SSRIs and thinking about taking CBD. 


While CBD, Xanax and antidepressants are each highly effective and safe when used in a controlled, therapeutic and monitored way they shouldn’t be combined. Mixing these medications must be avoided and can pose serious risks for both your liver plus neurochemistry. The interactions between CBD and Xanax or antidepressant compounds are unknown and can vary depending on the SSRI in question. When comparing these chemicals, it’s essential to weigh the benefits and risks associated with each option. CBD offers a more natural approach to improving your mental state with potentially fewer side effects, but its effects may not be as immediate as those of Xanax. Antidepressants, meanwhile, are tailored specifically to manage depressive disorders but need to be taken for multiple months to provide benefits. Ultimately, consulting with a medical professional or psychiatrist is key to making informed decisions about which treatment is most suitable for your unique needs. CBD isn’t the best option in all cases and it’s critical to find out the right solution for your condition. Combining these treatments with lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, exercise and other non-pharmacological therapies is also key to maximizing their positive effects.