In the last two decades, the cannabis movement has continued to make its way around the USA and the rest of the world. It is literally the dawn of proper cannabis research following a 100-year prohibition on the plant. And the more we learn about it, the more CBD is beginning to contend with many different pharmaceutical pain medications.
According to the National Institute of Health, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. In fact, pain is the most common reason for an American to enter the health care system at all. This has led to one of the worst epidemics that America has seen in a long time: the opioid crisis. Many Americans are being inspired to make the change towards a more sustainable form of pain control that limits the risk of addiction or fatality. CBD is claiming to be the alternative that so many Americans have been hoping for, but is it all it says it is?
CBD, pain and research
The first thing to understand is that there are many different versions of pain. Some pain is related to inflammatory responses, such as rheumatism. Other pain is related to cancer. It is extremely difficult to make sweeping statements about certain pain treatments, as different remedies affect different kinds of pain. For this reason, along with the fact that getting licensing for cannabis research is extremely difficult, there is a huge lack of understanding about how CBD affects pain.
For the most part, studies have been performed on rats. This makes for great preclinical data that literally begs for more profound research to be taking place. However, until that research takes place, how CBD actually operates in humans is very much a mystery.
In this study published in the Pain Journal (performed on rodents, of course), the researchers suggested a mechanism of action of CBD. They found that at low, repetitive doses, CBD induced analgesia. It does so by activating the TRPV1 receptor, responsible for the sensation of noxious stimuli – or pain.
In this cross-sectional survey study, researchers found that chronic pain was the first most common reason for their subjects to use CBD. Of those surveyed for using CBD for their condition, over 35% said that it worked extremely well. Another 29% said that it worked moderately well, while just over 30% said it worked well in conjunction with other conventional medications. Less than 5% of those surveyed responded saying that CBD did not for them.
Finally, another study which was shared by Harvard Medical School tested the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of topical CBD. As with many studies, it was performed on rat models. The results were promising, showing that even applied topically, CBD could decrease pain and reduce swelling in those with arthritis.
Methods of ingestion
So the next question logically follows: how does one take CBD and how much of it to take? It’s arguably even harder to answer these questions than it is to ask whether CBD works or not. There are a lot of variables at play when it comes to ingesting CBD and the best dose for each person.
CBD oil is the most popular way to consume CBD. It is taken sublingually and is absorbed through the aqueous layers under the tongue. It is pretty fast acting, with users feeling effects within 30 minutes of ingestion. It’s one of the easiest ways to consume CBD, as no extra steps or paraphernalia is required. It’s a great method of ingestion for those who use CBD daily.
Vaping CBD liquid
The next most common way to use CBD is by vaping. Of all the methods of ingestion, vaping takes effect the fastest. Coming in through the lungs, it is instantly received into the brain and body. Vaping is also the most efficient way to consume CBD, as very little is lost to digestive or metabolic processes. For instantaneous relief, vaping is the best method of ingestion.
CBD can also be consumed in gummies or edibles – there are many different products available in dispensaries. This method can take over 1 hour to take effect, but because of metabolism, can also last the longest. Again, the amount of time it takes for edible CBD to be absorbed into the body depends on the metabolism of a person as well as their tolerance to CBD. This is also the least efficient way of consuming cannabinoids, as a lot of them are lost to metabolic processes in the gut.
Finally, there is the topical application of CBD. This is best for localized pain, such as in the circumstance of wound or injury, for example. It is effective almost immediately and can help to reduce swelling. It is great used on its own or in conjunction with ingested CBD.
Dosing is the hardest part of CBD because everybody is dramatically different. Plus, there are different dosage suggestions depending on whether it is used every day or whether it is used just in cases of emergency.
A general dosage recommendation is 2.5-20mg for chronic pain. There’s a big difference between 2.5mg and 20 mg. For this reason, patients are advised to start with 2.5 mg and then scale up, depending on how they respond to the smaller dose. If using CBD every day for chronic pain, it is best to take smaller repetitive doses than to take a single large dose.
CBD: A rival for the opioid crisis
With so many Americans suffering from chronic pain, there is a dire need for a natural alternative that does not pose the same threat of fatality that opioids do. Some of the most important benefits of using CBD are related to the fact that CBD is non-addictive, non-intoxicating and has virtually no side effects.
This is why CBD is posing a real threat to opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. There are so many people who are ready to make the jump and try something that does not compromise other factors of their health.