One of the most common reasons for people to be prescribed conventional medications and prescription drugs nowadays is chronic pain. According to a new study by the CDC, approximately 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain either “on most days” or “every day within a 6 month period” before being surveyed. The fact that it is such a widespread problem is why it is now estimated to cost more than half a trillion dollars each year in medical costs as well as disability programs.
The prevalence has also become a hotly debated political and public opinion issue because of the current opioid crisis in America. With all these prescriptions being issued, more and more people are using aggressive medications such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, codeine, morphine, and others, developed by the big pharmaceutical companies. The side effects of these opioids meant to treat pain are making the users highly addicted to them. The drug crisis in the U.S. resulted in over 72,000 deaths in 2017 alone with about 47,600 of them being directly tied to opioids. All this just because patients are seeking a way to live without pain.
The current social and political climate has given rise to more awareness about the addictive nature of these prescription pain relievers. This has resulted in a sharp pivot away from aggressive pharmaceuticals and synthetic drugs, and a movement towards naturally derived solutions for pain relief. This is where CBD comes in.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plants. Cannabinoids are found in many other plants as well, but when we hear CBD, it refers to cannabidiol, specifically derived from the cannabis and hemp plants. The stigma with cannabis has, for a long time, been the psychoactive effects it has to get you ‘high.’ However, when CBD is separated from the rest of the cannabinoids, namely THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, it does not get you high.
An endocannabinoid system is present in the human body. It can receive and interpret signals from cannabinoids. Cannabidiol interacts with the brain’s receptors in a different way than THC does which is why it won’t get you high – but it will play a role in the regulation of key functions such as inflammation, sleep, fatigue, and pain.
CBD has been used for centuries in ancient civilizations for a wide array of uses – but to western culture and modern medicine, it is considered a newer option. The recent legalization of hemp and all its derivatives via the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill has spurred the dissemination of information about it, spiked consumer interest and fueled a new wave of investment into its research. One of the most interesting uses for CBD that has been rapidly gaining attention is its potential to provide pain relief. Here are some of the conditions that may benefit from CBD oil:
In numerous studies, evidence of CBD reducing inflammation in the body has shown that it may be effective in relieving pain that is a result of inflammation. That means conditions like:
Conventional anti-inflammatory drugs like NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are usually used to treat pain resulting from these conditions. The major disadvantage of using NSAIDS are their side effects which include gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding, kidney disease and even the possibility of a heart attack. While more studies are needed to officially declare CBD as a definitive treatment, the studies performed up until now are highly promising and have shown little to no side effects in the subjects who use it.
In states where it is legal to do so, some doctors have even begun to prescribe CBD for patients with cancer who are undergoing harsh chemotherapy regimens that often leave them experiencing high levels of intense pain. Some of the pain experienced with cancer and chemotherapy is inflammation-based, like the aforementioned conditions, but other sources of pain with cancer come from pressure on internal organs and nerve injury. CBD interacts with CB2 receptors which may have a role in reducing pervasive pain by regulating and reducing inflammation. There is something to be said about its potential and power if patients dealing with some of the most intense forms of pain are using it.
A study performed in 2019 found that 80% of chronic pain sufferers who were part of the study said they swapped out traditional pain medications, including opioids, for cannabis when they experienced fewer side effects and more effective symptom management.
Muscle spasms cause pain and joint mobility issues by tightening and contracting muscles involuntarily. In studies, Cannabinoids have been linked to a reduction in the frequency of muscle spasms – that includes patients who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Evidence points to an interaction between CBD and CB1 and CB2 receptors and their effects on the receptors that regulate neurotransmitters meant to control muscle spasms.
Other studies have shown a reduction in the intensity and frequency of the spasms in multiple sclerosis patients with spasms that were not improved previously by conventional therapy. The study focused on these patients using CBD for 15 weeks and they saw noteworthy improvements in just 4 weeks.
For patients looking to give naturally based pain relief options a try, CBD is a virtually risk-free option that has little to no side effects and won’t result in dependency or addiction. So far, 17 U.S. states have legalized medical cannabis for spasm treatment. The states that have approved it for this purpose are Louisiana, Florida, Montana, Minnesota, Delaware, Arizona, California, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Michigan.
It is important to note that while the results from studies on CBD for chronic pain are very promising, they are still not 100% conclusive. The FDA has currently only approved one CBD product, used to treat a rare form of epilepsy. Still, the push from the public and from lawmakers to continue funding studies and for its ultimate full legalization has experts prognosticating a bright future for CBD in the sector of naturally derived pain relief.