If you or a loved one suffer from chronic pain, you’re well aware of the struggle it can present, and the desire to find a non-addictive solution. Standard pharmaceuticals typically need to be transported between 55 degrees and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Turning more to plant-based medicine, provided proper care is taken and the science is there to back up the theories, opens up a range of more stable and less particular transportation options. But how is cannabis itself changing the face of pain management?
What Is Cannabis?
Cannabis is most commonly obtained from the Cannabis indica or the Cannabis sativa plants. It has three main components, called cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. While there are more than one hundred different types of cannabinoids, the two major components found in cannabis as we’re considering it are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Generally, more attention is paid to the psychoactive portion of the cannabis plant, which causes a euphoric ‘high’. There have been comparatively few studies on the use of CBD, a non-psychoactive component, in the management of chronic pain.
Overall, CBD looks like a promising pharmaceutical agent used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, and even seizures without using the psychoactive effects of the THC component. Evidence from tests done in animals shows that CBD exerts pain-relieving effects using various interactions as well a modulation of the inflammatory, nociceptive, and endocannabinoid systems. The endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating many of the body’s functions, including appetite, metabolism, mood, anxiety levels, and pain reception. It is constructed of cannabinoid receptors that interact with our bodies’ naturally occurring cannabinoids.
CBD is currently not approved for the treatment of pain relief in the United States. While CBD is an attractive candidate for a chronic pain reliever that is non-addictive, or at least has a low potential for abuse, and is relatively side effect free, there have been no formal studies of CBD for the relief of chronic pain in humans.
That said, a combination treatment that used THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio has been approved by Health Canada — but only for certain types of pain. The treatment was specifically approved for what’s called central neuropathic pain found in multiple sclerosis, as well as the treatment of cancer pain which is unresponsive to an optimized opioid therapy. In fact, there’s currently no research of high-quality which uses CBD alone as a treatment for chronic pain, anxiety, or depression.
What About Side-Effects?
Wall Street analysts forecast that cannabis will grow to $80 billion by 2030. This is due partially to the rapid change in the legality of the material and partially to the American appetite for the new and the novel. Much of the marketing around CBD presents it as a kind of cure-all with no side effects, when in reality, CBD can cause adverse effects to the liver and male reproductive system.
So, What’s the Take Away?
While CBD has a very attractive potential for managing chronic pain and other conditions in a non-addictive way, the science hasn’t yet caught up to the marketing. Medicine is a fast-changing field in many ways, but some things do take time to investigate fully — CBD and its effects being one of them.
Until more research is done and verified, it’s not necessarily advisable to make CBD your only or even first choice in chronic pain management. Always speak with your doctor before beginning any new medication, even natural supplements, as these may interact with your system in unexpected ways or otherwise interact with other medications you may be taking.