- CBD is nonpsychoactive, nonaddictive, does not produce a high and has few to no dangerous side effects,
- In states where CBD is becoming widely used, there are also few, reports of negative social or medical consequences.
Production of cannabis is booming as the medical benefits of CBD are being increasingly recognized. According to Project CBD, at least 50 condition are believed to be improved by CBD, including pain, seizures, muscle spasms, nausea associated with chemotherapy, digestive disorders, degenerative neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, mood disorders, anxiety, PTSD and high blood pressure.
In states where CBD is becoming widely used, there are also few reports of negative social or medical consequences, in fact, CBD has been shown to provide valuable benefits for those struggling with opioid addiction.
At the end of Y 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) modified the Schedule 1 classification for some CBD products, downgrading CBD products from cannabis that contain no more than 0.1% tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis) to Schedule 5, which lists drugs considered to have a lower potential for abuse than other controlled drugs.
The popularity of CBD has exploded in recent years. As noted in a 14 May 2019, New York Times article: “ … [C]annabidiol is everywhere. We are bombarded by a dizzying variety of CBD-infused products: beers, gummies, chocolates and marshmallows; lotions to rub on aching joints; oils to swallow; vaginal suppositories … CVS and Walgreens each recently announced plans to sell CBD products in certain states.”
The New York Times, which covers a lot of ground in its article, goes on to recount some of the history of how scientists discovered what cannabis can do for the human body. In the early 1960’s, a chemist named Raphael Mechoulam became the 1st to map the chemical structures of CBD and THC.
In the 1980’s, a St. Louis University Medical School scientist named Allyn Howlett identified the cannabinoid receptor Type 1 (CB1) in the human brain.
We now know there are 2 types of cannabinoid receptors in the human body, CB1 and CB2, and while CB1 is typically thought of as being primarily in the brain and CB2 primarily in the immune system, both types of receptors are in fact found throughout the human body.
We also know the body produces endogenous cannabinoids that influence these receptors, and that this ECS ( endocannabinoid system) plays an important role in human health, as it regulates homeostasis by orchestrating communication between your bodily systems, such as your respiratory, digestive, immune and cardiovascular systems.
Mr. Mechoulam published his discovery of the 1st endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide, which attaches to the same sites as THC, in Y1992. As you would expect, the discovery of the ECS led to drug developments targeting CB receptors.
Results, however, were less than fruitful, as it turns out there are few truly safe alternatives to cannabis or hemp, which also contains CBD, but very little if any THC.
As reported by The New York Times, Sanofi’s weight loss drug Rimonabant, which blocked CB1 receptors, was pulled off the market after just 2 years, after reports of depression and suicide attempts related to the drug emerged.
“The episode seems to exemplify endocannabinoids’ importance to our sense of well-being and the difficulty of manipulating them therapeutically. Attempts to increase native cannabinoids with synthetic drugs have fared no better.
In 2016, French scientists halted a study of a drug designed to boost endocannabinoids. For reasons that remain unclear, six patients who took the medicine, meant to treat pain, were hospitalized. One died,” The New York Times wrote.
While there’s still a lot we do not know about the exact workings of CBD, research suggests it interacts with many different systems in the body.
For example: it increases the number of endogenous cannabinoids, binds to serotonin receptors and stimulates GABA receptors, all of which play roles in mood.
“With more than 65 cellular targets, CBD may provide a kind of full-body massage at the molecular level,” the NY-T’s states, adding, “this biochemical promiscuity is one reason CBD seems so medically promising,” especially when it comes to neurology, as CBD’s ability to re-establish homeostasis appears particularly beneficial for the brain.
While THC is psychoactive, CBD has been shown to counteract the effects of THC. Many cannabis varieties used for recreational purposes, however, have been bred for exceptionally high THC content, which is why recreational marijuana use has become associated with some of the more negative effects of THC.
A study on black-market marijuana published in Y 2016 revealed the THC potency of illicit marijuana has “consistently increased over time since 1995 from 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014,” while “cannabidiol content has decreased on average from .28% in 2001 to .15% in 2014.”
This means the overall change in the THC to CBD ratio has shifted from 14-to-1 to about 80-to-1 over the past 20 years. Older varieties of cannabis had a ratio closer to 1-to-1.
What is more, while THC has been shown to trigger heroin-seeking behavior, CBD has been found to do the complete opposite, which is why CBD is now being investigated as an aid to end addiction to opioids.
The research, The New York Times states, “indicates that CBD might help recovering opioid addicts avoid relapse, perhaps the greatest challenge they face … And because it’s not habit-forming … CBD might be a badly needed new weapon with which to fight an epidemic that claims more than 130 lives daily in the United States.”
A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry confirms the benefits of CBD for this use yet again, finding: “Acute CBD administration, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues … CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures 7 days after the final short-term (3-day) CBD exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue-induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse effects.”
THC is not all bad though.
Certain kinds of pain respond better to THC than CBD, and research has shown cancer patients who use cannabis need fewer opioids to manage their pain.
THC also appears to be less toxic to older brains, and has been shown to actually rejuvenate the aging brain and reduce plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer’s.
States that have legalized medical cannabis also report fewer opioid-related deaths. Research published in Y 2014 showed that, on average, opioid overdose mortality in these states is 24.8% lower than in states that do not have medical cannabis laws, and that mortality rates from opioids continue to decline over time.
While the sale of CBD products has grown into a $390-M per year industry and is projected to hit $1.3-B by Y 2022, there is lots of confusion around the federal legality of CBD commerce in the U.S.
As noted by STAT News, “You wouldn’t know it from their widespread availability on the internet, in health food shops, and increasingly in major retailers, but CBD dietary supplements are technically illegal.” The reason for this is because the FDA still has not clarified whether CBD should be considered a drug or a supplement.
Hemp can now be grown and sold legally per the 2018 Farm Bill, but according to the FDA, CBD from hemp “is still technically illegal as a dietary ingredient,” New Hope Network points out.
By approving a CBD-only drug (Epidiolex), CBD cannot as per FDA rules be sold as a supplement, even if it’s derived from legal hemp.
“Lawyers, however, maintain the law is less clear for CBD products marketed as hemp extract, because hemp has been in the food supply long before drug makers started doing CBD clinical trials,” STAT News says.
For now, FDA has not aggressively gone after CBD products, limiting their action to gong after those making unsubstantiated disease claims, but they could, and this makes many doctors nervous.
“J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., who has written about cannabis, calls the hodgepodge of conflicting rules regarding cannabis ‘idiotic,’” Dr. Velasquez-Manoff writes.
“He told me that even physicians willing to oversee patient cannabis use, who live in states where it’s legal, can be reluctant to do so because it remains illegal under federal law.
A doctor’s license to practice medicine comes from the state, but because the license that allows doctors to prescribe medicine is federal, involvement with cannabis could lead to revocation of that license. ‘There’s a lack of clarity about what playing field we’re on,’ Dr. Bostwick says.”
It is important to know that even though CBD products are readily available, from a federal standpoint, they are still illegal, so it would be very wise not to travel with them,
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