A lot has been made lately about the effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) products for pain, and understandably so. Chronic pain patients are in need of a healthier and more sustainable painkiller option than prescription opioids, which cause more than 10,000 deaths annually in the United States, according to National Institute on Drug Abuse data.
CBD is a component of hemp and marijuana plant, but vitally doesn’t have the intoxicating, euphoric effects that come from recreational and some types of medical cannabis. CBD isn’t addictive, and has relatively few side effects, in contrast to opioids which are addictive, and can cause vomiting, nausea, dizziness and constipation.
But with CBD not approved as a painkiller by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), how can we be sure that it works? And what CBD products are beneficial for patients with neuropathic or chronic pain?
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The logic behind taking CBD for pain
Hemp-based CBD products are available online and in various grocery and health stores, and can be purchased without prescription. These products are not technically medicines, with vendors forced to market CBD as a food supplement. But a recent survey found that up to 15 percent Americans are using CBD, with many doing so for medicinal reasons. Pain tops the list of all therapeutic reasons for taking the substance.
Studies have produced conflicting results on the usefulness of CBD for pain, although the fact that so many people are benefitting from it suggests that the cannabinoid has some value. Either that or users are getting an extremely strong placebo effect – which is possible. However, CBD has been shown to interact with receptors that are responsible for modulating pain sensation.
Finding a good CBD product
Let’s presume that CBD is a genuine remedy for pain. Consumers must first choose whether they want a product that just contains CBD (known as CBD-isolate), or one made with a full-spectrum hemp extract, that is infused with cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, all of which may possess analgesic properties.
Hemp flower: This product is ideal for those who have smoked medical cannabis in the past, and aren’t concerned about the health risks of smoking. Smoking CBD-rich hemp has a near-immediate effect, and indica-dominant strains are particularly effective. However, a hybrid may be better for daytime relief, as this will have an energizing effect to counteract any drowsiness.
Vape juice: Koi CBD e-liquid is a healthier option to smoking for users to want the instant benefits that inhaling CBD has to offer, without the exposure to carcinogens that comes with smoking. As with hemp flower, a wide range of vape juice strains are available to provide the pain relief you need.
Tincture oils: These are not quite as efficient as smoking hemp or vaping e-liquid, but the most efficient type of CBD for those not prepared to risk their lungs. Tincture oil is applied under the tongue, with sublingual absorption typically delivering relief within 15 minutes.
Edibles: Edibles relieve pain much differently to the aforementioned CBD products. These are designed to have a lasting analgesic effect, either to get you through the day, or to prevent pain from disturbing your sleep. With edibles, the CBD reaches the bloodstream via stomach absorption, and can last for up to eight hours.
Capsules: These are very similar to edibles in terms of effects, but are much more discreet. Capsules generally have no aroma and are indistinguishable from other supplements or capsule-based medicines. Furthermore, capsules may also combine CBD with other beneficial extracts.
Creams: Topical CBD products are great for direct pain relief. If discomfort is affecting you in one particular area, as is common with inflammatory pain, CBD targets the necessary receptors at the source. Many users like to use creams with another form of CBD.
Concentrates: This is the strongest available CBD on the market, and intended for patients suffering from severe symptoms, who need strong doses and instant relief. The most popular way of consuming concentrates is by vaporizing them via the dabbing process. This method also ensures a completely clean vapor.
Combining CBD with prescription opioids
Patients taking opioids may find themselves unable to switch straight away from opioids to CBD. But by taking CBD, and gradually reducing the opioid dose, over time it is possible to formulate a more sustainable treatment plan. CBD helps with cutting back opioid use not just by reducing pain, but the substance also appears to have anti-addictive effects, which it exerts through regulation of opioid receptors.