With a global pandemic, presidential election and widespread uncertainty, some students are turning to CBD to help manage their stress

Katie Jahns, Reporter

Since the start of the pandemic, the world has undergone extreme change, causing many to feel disoriented and disconnected. In March, the World Health Organization acknowledged that the pandemic is causing increased stress and anxiety.
Psychology Prof. Wendi Gardner said the general uncertainty has created an environment particularly conducive to stress — especially at NU, when many students are unsure whether they will be on campus Winter Quarter.

“If you wanted to design a year to cause stress, you really couldn’t do better than 2020,” Gardner said. “Our brains hate when there’s the potential for something negative to happen and when it’s unclear whether we have control or not to avoid it.”

With social interaction off the table, some are turning to a different source to calm their nerves. Cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, is widely used to regulate stress and anxiety.

Commonly associated with marijuana because it is derived from cannabis plants, CBD is sometimes misunderstood. According to the federal Farm Bill passed in 2018, CBD is only classified as cannabis if it has more than 0.3 percent THC. In most places, one must be 18 or older to purchase CBD, and 21 to purchase any kind of vape or smoke. While it is legal on the federal level, some states have their own laws and restrictions concerning the substance.

Gardner said the reason CBD is so useful in calming anxiety is because it reduces stress without any of the psychologically altering effects of THC present in marijuana — calming you down without making you mentally fuzzy or unclear.

Lisa Brennan-Winefield is the co-owner of Botanica CBD in Evanston, and has dedicated the past two-and-a-half years to researching the medicinal properties of CBD. Though it has been gaining in popularity since it became legal in 2018, Brennan-Winefield said she’s seen increased interest in her store since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re starting to see a lot more people taking it for stress and insomnia, because they kind of go together. When people are really stressed out, they tend to not be able to sleep,” Brennan-Winefield said.

Botanica CBD, like many other CBD stores, sells a variety of products, ranging from topicals and capsules to smoke and vape. According to Brennan-Winefield, one of their fastest growing products is edibles.

“They’re a really fast, approachable way to try stuff for anxiety,” she said. “I had one of my busiest days the night after the debate, I had people coming in and they were like, ‘I just can’t take it. I can’t.’”

That mentality has been expressed by students on campus. Weinberg sophomore Gretchen Faliszek said she started using CBD as a natural way to manage her anxiety, and has experienced significant results.

Faliszek said she would highly recommend CBD to those who are curious about it.

“It’s almost like a little wave goes over you,” Faliszek said. “You’re just calm and more content.”

Communication sophomore Anna Skillom said for her, CBD was an affordable and non-pharmaceutical way to manage her anxiety.

“When I get anxious, I start shaking really bad. I take CBD in order to get rid of that body shaking,” Skillom said. “And I’m able to kind of push back the negative thoughts.”

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Twitter: @katiemjahns

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