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does cbd work for pain

Products containing CBD are often marketed for pain relief, but there’s no solid evidence that they actually do anything. In fact, t he FDA recently issued warning letters to two companies that explicitly make CBD products intended to provide pain relief.

While these [CBD + THC] products have shown some promising results as a treatment for chronic pain, the efficacy of CBD must be questioned since the product contains THC as well as CBD. Furthermore, the safety profile of current CBD products, specifically non-pharmaceuticals, should be questioned due to their false advertising and variable quantities of CBD in the product. Therefore, careful selection of a CBD product should be made by physicians and patients to ensure patients are taking a high- quality product. Despite these concerns, CBD is a promising area for the treatment of chronic pain, and further studies need to be performed to evaluate the role of CBD in chronic pain management.

What is CBD again?

If you use a CBD product and you think it’s working, I certainly won’t tell you to stop . But the FDA may come for the manufacturer eventually.

There is research on CBD, but the setups of the studies are only distantly related to the scenarios in which people use over-the-counter CBD products. Sometimes the studies will administer a massive dose of CBD that’s out of the average person’s budget for regular use, or they’ll test CBD/THC combination products—and even then, the results aren’t necessarily clear. The studies are also often looking at patients with cancer or specific medical conditions, rather than people who want to treat everyday aches and pains. This 2020 review paper on CBD for chronic pain sums up the state of the science:

One medication made from CBD, called Epidiolex, is an FDA-approved drug for treating a certain type of epilepsy. Otherwise, CBD falls into a very bizarre legal grey area .

In fact, the FDA has issued several warning letters to companies and individuals that market unapproved new drugs that allegedly contain CBD. The FDA has tested the chemical content of cannabinoid compounds in some of the products, and many were found to not contain the levels of CBD the manufacturers had claimed they contain.

Finally, there is anecdotal wisdom, when experiences by patients and health professionals have positive results. While the experience or medication could be beneficial, that doesn’t mean it is going to work for everyone. That’s because each and every person is unique, and what works perfectly for one patient could have no effect on another patient. This is especially true for pain, where many other factors (our mood and stress level, our environment and other medical conditions, and our previous experiences) can affect the perception of pain. Please be careful, and keep in mind that some of these incredible-sounding testimonials are merely marketing materials meant to lure consumers to buy more products, as the CBD market is expected to hit $20 billion by 2024.

Most importantly, CBD can interact with other important medications like blood thinners, heart medications, and immunosuppressants (medications given after organ transplantation), potentially changing the levels of these important medications in the blood and leading to catastrophic results, including death. Also, more information needs to be gathered about its safety in special populations such as the elderly, children, those who are immunocompromised, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Beware of powerful testimonials

Given the ongoing challenges of chronic pain management coupled with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, pain management practitioners and their patients are searching for effective and safer alternatives to opioids to alleviate pain. With the legalization of marijuana in many states and resulting cultural acceptance of this drug for recreational and medical use, there has been an increased interest in using cannabis for a myriad of medical problems, including pain.

CBD is emerging as a promising pharmaceutical agent to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, and anxiety without the psychoactive effects of THC. Our understanding of the role of CBD in pain management continues to evolve, and evidence from animal studies has shown that CBD exerts its pain-relieving effects through its various interactions and modulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and nociceptive (pain sensing) systems. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors that interact with our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. This system is involved in regulating many functions in the body, including metabolism and appetite, mood and anxiety, and pain perception.

So far, pharmaceutical CBD is only approved by the FDA as adjunct therapy for the treatment of a special and rare form of epilepsy. Currently, CBD alone is not approved for treatment of pain in the United States. But a combination medication (that contains both THC and CBD in a 1:1 ratio) was approved by Health Canada for prescription for certain types of pain, specifically central neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis, and the treatment of cancer pain unresponsive to optimized opioid therapy. There is currently no high-quality research study that supports the use of CBD alone for the treatment of pain.

If you ask health care providers about the most challenging condition to treat, chronic pain is mentioned frequently. By its nature, chronic pain is a complex and multidimensional experience. Pain perception is affected by our unique biology, our mood, our social environment, and past experiences. If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain, you already know the heavy burden.