The legalization of marijuana and its derivatives has introduced a new player into the natural medicine world. It opens new possibilities for treatments of all kinds of ailments–but also a lot of misinformation. For some people, the idea of using a drug previously associated with illicit use is distasteful. Furthermore, anyone who has to pass random drug tests for work will want to steer clear of marijuana. However, prescription cannabidiol (CBD) claims to provide many benefits without the high.
CBD is legal in states where medical marijuana is legal, which–as of 2019–includes Ohio. (Some states address CBD with specific laws, separate from marijuana laws.) The trend looks likely to expand across the country. So, you probably wonder about your options and what to believe about this seemingly miraculous treatment. Get the facts about CBD.
How Do People Use CBD?
CBD comes from flowers and buds and does not contain THC–the drug that gets marijuana users high.
You commonly hear of CBD oil. However, you can also find it as a vaporized liquid, in a capsule, or in a lotion. There are also food and drinks infused with CBD. Numerous products are available online. You can also purchase products that contain CBD at dispensaries. You don’t need a prescription, since it’s classified as a supplement. However, one prescription drug containing CBD has been approved by the FDA. (More on that below.)
A quick Google search brings up thousands of results. Sellers claim it can treat anxiety, insomnia, pain, inflammation, PTSD, nausea, vomiting, seizures, headaches, and numerous other symptoms. How can you know who to trust? As with other supplements, it’s a good idea to read ingredients carefully, research individual brands, and ask for recommendations from a medical professional.
What Does the Science Say?
In 2018, an FDA panel unanimously recommended approval of Epidiolex. This pharmaceutical is designed to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This is the use of CBD with the most scientific research behind it. Published studies date back only a few years, but several research teams have published papers describing the drug’s effects on epileptic symptoms.
For example, a 2015 study published in Epilepsia said CBD has neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, and it appears to be well tolerated in humans, but small and methodologically limited studies of CBD in human epilepsy have been inconclusive.
Looking at a different use entirely, the University of Sao Paulo studied CBD’s effects on fear. Studying rats, they concluded that CBD inhibits the consolidation of fear memories. In other words, it might prevent a scary experience from turning into PTSD.
Some medical professionals and researchers attribute CBD’s positive outcomes to the placebo effect. It is hard to say because there simply isn’t a lot of research, especially in humans. That looks likely to change, however. Science News reported, in March 2019, “National Institutes of Health funding for CBD studies went from zero in 2014 to an estimated $16 million in 2018.” I, for one, will be paying attention.
What Are the Risks?
Let’s say CBD helps you through the placebo effect. That might be okay, as long as you get relief, and as long as there are no negative effects. However, remember that the lack of research means a lack of understanding of CBD’s risks as well as its benefits.
Since CBD is not regulated by the FDA, it’s best to bring a healthy skepticism to its claims. According to The Mayo Clinic, a study of 84 CBD products showed that more than a quarter of the products contained less CBD than labeled. In addition, about 20% of the products contained THC, the compound in marijuana that causes the high.
One possible way to try and avoid the chance of ingesting THC is to choose an “isolate” version of CBD as opposed to a “full spectrum” product. A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids. However, even an isolate may get contaminated if it’s processed in a facility that also processes products containing THC.
Also, understand the potential side effects. Some users report dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness or fatigue. As with any medicine or supplement, consider the potential for interaction with those you already take. For example, CBD can interact adversely with blood thinners.
The Future of CBD Products
As I mentioned above, more research will take place in the coming years. Reported research underway includes CBD’s use in treating Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety. Increased funding along with intense interest from the public will likely mean an onslaught of information–not all of it reliable. Do your homework and communicate with your doctor.