3 things you didn’t know about CBD
Before we begin…
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis, a plant with a rich history as a natural medicine going back thousands of years. A safe and non-addictive substance, CBD is one of more than a hundred phytocannabinoids, which are unique to cannabis and endow the plant with its robust therapeutic profile. More than a simple health fad, increasing evidence and literature supports CBD as a legitimate medicine in a number of health areas. For more basic information about CBD check out the ‘What is CBD and how does it work?’ article on our home page.
Although cannabidiol was isolated as a compound decades ago, knowledge of it’s potentially potent therapeutic value are only now becoming mainstream. As with most emerging industries, regulation is loose which has led to a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding CBD and an awful lot of miss-selling. In our never-ending quest to combat mis-information, we’ve put together an interesting list of 3 things you (probably!) didn’t already know about CBD.
1 CBD is NOT a miracle cure-all
But wait, Dr. Ed…aren’t you a CBD company? Shouldn’t you be pushing CBD more than anyone else?
We love CBD and what it can do for people BUT we love the truth even more. As scientists, facts are what matter and pulling the wool over the eyes of our consumers is the last thing we would ever do. If you take a look at any of the thousands of ‘bedroom-blender’ brands on Instagram (and even some of the more established ones…), you will see absolutely outrageous health claims being made about CBD. These include claims that CBD can cure any and all types of cancer at any stage, serious mental health issues and serious brain injuries to name just a few.
While CBD has a huge range of potential applications there is simply no GOOD evidence that CBD can cure or repair all these things. That doesn’t mean evidence won’t eventually emerge supporting more health benefits but people currently making these claims are either lying to you to make a sale or believe in the ‘power of CBD’ to the point of irrationality.
So, what do we mean by good evidence? Generally, we mean controlled trials in animal models or better yet, in a clinical setting, that compares CBD to a control substance with regards to treating a specific issue. Anecdotal evidence, like first-hand accounts, can be a useful way to see if CBD may work for you if someone in a similar position has had success BUT the real science will lead you to the truth regarding the health effects of CBD.
A growing body of clinical, pre-clinical (in vitro and in vivo) research supports the use of CBD or suggests its potential use in the following conditions/ailments:
- Neuropathic pain
- Chronic pain
- Some forms of addiction
2 Cannabinoids are a potential alternative to opioids
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. In other words, they are a diverse group of drugs and widely available.
Opioids are most commonly prescribed for the treatment of both acute and chronic pain typically associated with terminal illnesses. Opioids are very effective in treating acute pain following surgery as well as pain associated with conditions such as cancer.
While effective opioids are incredibly addictive. They are in fact so physiologically addictive that sudden withdrawal during addiction can lead to death; the body becomes so used to the constant flood of opioids that cutting off the supply is fatal.
For acute pain, it has now been established that there is a clear risk of addiction and some opioid users are unable to give up opioids despite their acute pain clearing up. Another issue that has led to increased addiction rates is that opioids are now being prescribed for chronic pain in general, not just those associated with cancer and terminal disease. As such, people are becoming hooked at increasing rates; partly because of the addictive nature of opioids and partly because they are unable to find another pain-reliever that works as well.
Opioid induced deaths numbered close to 20,000 in the USA in 2016, and it is a serious and growing public health concern that isn’t talked about enough. Not only are opioids in general killing more people than ever (this would include illegal drugs like heroin) but deaths related to the abuse of prescription opioids are also on the rise.
Although opioid-related deaths are more of an issue in the USA, opioids are still available in the UK and abuse is still rife. As such, alternatives to opioids which are both effective and safer are highly sought after. One particularly interesting research paper describing potential alternatives to opioid use in pain treatment focussed on cannabidiol. They found that…
‘Cannabinoids exhibit comparable effectiveness to opioids in models of acute pain and even greater effectiveness in models of chronic pain’
Fundamentals of Clinical Pharmacology, 2013 27(1), pp.64-80
Interestingly, a new avenue of research suggests that cannabidiol may not only be an effective analgesic (pain reliever) in the context of chronic pain but may also be useful in reducing addictive behaviours associated with cocaine and opioid abuse. If additional clinical studies find this to be true, then cannabidiol could be exceptionally important in the battle against opioid-abuse. In theory, an opioid abuser could find effective pain relief when using cannabidiol and also benefit from cannabidiols potential anti-addiction effects, helping to combat a relapse into opioid abuse.
‘[Our paper] presents preliminary clinical data that collectively sets a strong foundation in support of the further exploration of CBD as a therapeutic intervention against opioid relapse’
Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), pp. 807-815
3 Cannabidiol is the basis for FDA-approved medicines
At the end of 2018 the FDA approved Epidiolex oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older. This is great news for sufferers of these disorders and particularly important as Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from cannabis, cannabidiol.
Dravet syndrome is a rare genetic condition that appears very early in life and involves frequent fever-related. As the disorder progresses, other types of seizures typically arise, including involuntary muscle spasms. On top of this, a potentially life-threatening state of continuous seizure activity may occur which is readily life threatening. Children with Dravet syndrome typically experience poor development of language and motor skills, hyperactivity and difficulty relating to others; it is life changing for suffers and their parents/carers.
Lennox-Gastaut syndrome also begins in childhood, although not early as Dravet syndrome. It is characterized by multiple types of seizures. More than three-quarters of children with this syndrome have tonic seizures, which cause the muscles to contract uncontrollably; it’s painful and frightening for everyone involved.
The effectiveness of Epidiolex was studied in three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (the strongest scientific trials you can perform) involving 516 patients with either Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex, was shown to be effective in reducing the frequency of seizures when compared with placebo.
‘…open-label studies with 100 mg/ml CBD (Epidiolex®, GW Pharmaceuticals) have provided additional evidence of its efficacy along with an adequate safety profile (including certain drug interactions) in children and young adults with a spectrum of treatment-resistant-epilepsy’
Epilepsy and Behaviour, Vol. 70 pp. 341-348
The take away of this story is that cannabidiol does have powerful and provable effects on the human body and I imagine additional pharmaceutical medications based on cannabidiol will enter the market in the near future.
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