Can you really take CBD oil for pain? Is this a legitimate form of alternative medicine? More people are asking these questions as they gravitate towards natural and holistic approaches. It is not healthy, after all, to become too dependent on traditional pain relievers, such as NSAIDs like Ibuprofen or Tylenol. Let’s examine the science behind CBD and whether studies validate its effects as a pain reducer.
How Does CBD Relieve Pain?
The research on CBD is still ongoing. Most studies show that CBD directly influences the body’s endocannabinoid system. For a more in-depth explanation of the endocannabinoid system, see our introductory post on CBD.
More specifically, CBD doesn’t influence the endo system as much as it influences the compounds and substances that signal the system.
For instance, research1 suggests cannabidiol enhances the signaling ability of the fatty acid anandamide. Studies2 reveal anandamide is not only the body’s natural pain reliever but also acts as an antidepressant.
Other studies suggest CBD is useful in treating peripheral pain. The nerves that detect pain sensation contains millions of receptor sites that the CBD binds to. Research from The National Academies Press shows CBD significantly alleviates peripheral nerve pain in animal trials.
That’s not all. A recent 2017 study3 showed CBD was effective for relieving joint pain in osteoarthritis patients. Other studies4 also show it was effective for treating migraines.
CBD Is Safe
CBD oil for pain is such a viable remedy because users can take it on a long-term basis without serious side effects. Studies5 conclude that CBD has a highly favorable safety profile. Now, this isn’t to say that users will never experience any side effects whatsoever. However, any adverse reactions are normally minor and dissipate once your body adjusts.
The same cannot be said, though, of over-the-counter medicine, most notably the aforementioned NSAIDs. Medicines like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Bayer are certainly effective for pain management. That, we do not deny. However, people with arthritis or other forms of recurring pain may develop dependency over time. Long-term NSAID use is linked to a number of serious ailments. This includes gastrointestinal problems like gas, bloating, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Studies6 also link prolonged NSAID use to renal failure and peptic ulcer disease.
CBD May Treat Opiate Addiction
Opiate addiction is one of the greatest American epidemics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the addiction claimed over 42,000 lives in 2016. That’s three times the number of lives lost from gun-related homicides. The figure considers all forms of opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers.
Why do people become addicted in the first place? It normally begins as a doctor’s prescription for pain management. While the patient may feel near-instant relief in the beginning, the body develops tolerance over time. Addiction physically changes the chemical composition of the brain. The body now demands more, requiring higher doses to reap the same relief. The addiction becomes so bad that patients may seek opiates elsewhere long after the doctor discontinues the prescription.
The medical community has long been in search of an addiction-free alternative for treating chronic pain. A new solution is becoming increasingly dire as an estimated 30% of Americans have chronic or acute pain. The pharmaceutical industry also dispensed 245 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers in 2014.
How Does CBD Fit Into all of This?
A cross-sectional study revealed that CBD use lowered opioid dependency by 64% among chronic pain patients. Patients using medical CBD also reported overall better quality of life.
CBD relieves pain in a completely different mechanism than opiates. As mentioned, CBD affects substance interaction with the endocannabinoid system. Opiates, on the other hand, attach to receptor sites in the brain and spinal cord. This causes the body to release large quantities of dopamine in response. This hormone attributes to the pain relief. However, opiates cause a release surge far higher than the body normally produces on its own. Over time, the body perceives that high dopamine level as the new normal. Any deviation below that and the body goes into withdrawal mode.
Currently, Methadone is the most common form of treatment for opiate withdrawal. Funny enough, methadone itself is an opioid, and users also run the risk of becoming dependent.
CBD, on the other hand, has a very low abuse potential according to the previously mentioned studies. Patients can also use CBD in the comfort and privacy of their home. With methadone, though, patients have to report daily to the clinic to receive their treatment.
CBD Oil for Pain Is a Legitimate Holistic Pathway
We’ll be the first to admit that research on CBD oil for pain is still largely in its infancy. The available research, though, is quite promising, which is why we’re advocates of CBD legalization. Not only may it bring pain relief, but it may also alleviate the opiate addiction that is plaguing this country and tearing families apart.
Please see our section on where to buy CBD oil for a list of reputable suppliers.