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CBD Medicine: Managing Chronic Pain

✍️ Radhika Mathur | BSc Biomedical Science student at the University of Warwick


What is CBD?🌿

CBD is a primary non-psychoactive component of cannabis. Present in hemp, Cannabis sativa is a strain that does not significantly produce any psychotropic compounds.

CBD is a chemical substance that possesses medicinal benefits and lacks the intoxicating properties linked to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another important cannabis component. THC is an ingredient that CBD oil cannot have even minimal amounts of in the UK. This is because THC can have an intoxicating impact on people, making them feel "high." Although CBD is legal in the UK, this is only the case for products that adhere to strict guidelines.

One advantage of CBD over alternative prescribing options such as opioids is that they are not addictive or habit-forming. Additionally, CBD oil has been found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities that may help with chronic pain. It can also alleviate symptoms associated with mental health including depression and anxiety. A 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry examined 57 men's anxiety levels through a practice exam for public speaking. When compared to people who received a placebo, individuals who took 300 mg of CBD reported substantially reduced anxiety.


How does CBD interact?💊

Endocannabinoid receptors are present in the brain. CBD binds to these receptors.

Humans have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is a cell-signalling system. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and immune system – these are a fundamental part of the ECS. Cells are covered in small proteins called receptors. They help cells respond by receiving signals—mostly chemical ones—from various stimuli. Subsequently, pain management is aided by the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits of this reaction. This suggests that those who suffer from chronic pain may benefit from using CBD.

A schematic showing the process in which CBD helps with resolving inflammation. This is via interaction with endocannabinoid receptors on the cells.
Illustrated man with inflammation

The cell signalling pathway that causes pain (produced using Biorender)


What is the current state of CBD delivery?💉

Prescription oil Epidiolex is the only CBD product that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes.

In the meantime, CBD has been authorised in several nations to treat specific ailments. For example, it is approved in the United Kingdom for multiple sclerosis, and in Canada for pain related to cancer. According to ongoing studies, CBD oil for pain may help with different medical disorders like fibromyalgia and arthritis at different dosages. A recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 American people found that 60% of users of CBD products do so because they believe it can relieve pain.  

The effects of CBD medicine have been investigated on other chronic health conditions including arthritis. According to industry data, the primary reason for purchasing is pain, and people suffering from arthritis are among the top consumers. 2,600 people were surveyed with arthritis in July 2019, and the results indicate a notable interest in and use of CBD. Recommendations for adults interested in CBD were developed after the Arthritis Foundation discussed them with top experts and listened to constituents. However, there is currently little scientific evidence supporting the claim that CBD can help reduce the symptoms of arthritis, and there are no universal quality standards or regulations.


Can CBD manage chronic pain?🦠

Continued studies in the U.S. indicate CBD is effective in treating chronic, non-cancer pain.

In a 2020 trial, symptomatic peripheral neuropathy patients received topical administration of CBD. The subjects who applied topical CBD exhibited a significant decrease in both severe, piercing pain and chilly, itching feelings as compared to the placebo group. Participants did not report any negative side effects.

Overall, because of the limitations on cannabis study and consumption, there is not enough data from human trials to support the claimed benefits of CBD oil. Despite this, cannabis research is gaining traction and producing a few positive findings as it becomes legal in more places. Cannabis has gained popularity as a treatment for a wide range of illnesses, including pain since it became legal in many states and has since gained acceptance in society for both medical and recreational purposes.

Content editor on lilac background

Edited by: Olivia Laughton | Content Editor | BSc Microbiology, University of Leeds




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