CBD Pain Relief: Does CBD Help With Pain?
Who’s using CBD for pain? Perhaps it’s better to ask who isn’t giving CBD pain relief a try these days! Celebrities like Busy Phillps and Mandy Moore are trying it for foot pain on the red carpet. Athletes like Mike Tyson and Anthony Pettis are fans. Some lucky dogs are even getting CBD for back, joint and hip pain!
How Might CBD Help With Pain?
Anecdotally, some are loving CBD for arthritis, menstrual cramps, and shoulder pain. The internet abounds with success stories – so what’s happening inside the body?
CBD works with various protein molecules and their receptors to help reduce pain. It also inhibits other components in the body’s endocannabinoid system such as anandamide. Anandamide is associated with pain regulation, so when CBD inhibits its absorption, this can reduce the sensation of pain!
Why Try CBD for Pain?
When we’re in pain, we usually want relief FAST and with few side effects. Thus far, CBD appears remarkably safe. No side effects have been reported for very high doses of up to 1,500mg taken daily for 26 days. This is WAAAAY more than most individuals will ever consume in a single day.
Opioids offer the most effective pain relief on the market, but they’re far from a miracle drug. Drugs like oxycodone can work excellent, but they’re easily sedating, which means you’re more apt to fall asleep than get on with your errands, work meetings and running after your kids. If you’ve seen Intervention or Nurse Jackie, you probably know they’re also highly addictive. Tolerance can build up quickly and unintentionally lead to dependence and addiction. Not to mention, higher doses come with increased side effects. For those with chronic pain in particular, it’s often a game of balance. They need relief to participate in, well, life! But at the same time, overwhelming side effects can limit their ability to go to work, school or have fun with family and friends.
Everyone has popped an aspirin or ibuprofen when a headache comes on. These drugs belong to a group called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Available over the counter, they appear relatively harmless. For monthly menstrual cramps or the occasional muscle soreness, there shouldn’t be major issues. However, long-term use at high doses can cause unwanted side effects.
CBD for Pain Management: The Problem With Current Knowledge
While we DO know that CBD can play a role in the body’s experience of pain, there is little systematic research on humans to know its effects for certain. There are a number of studies exploring cannabinoids for pain, but the overwhelming majority include both THC and CBD, so it is impossible to know the effect of CBD alone. It is exciting, however, that the combination has helped a wide range of painful conditions. CBD seems to reduce the undesirable effects of THC, such as psychoactive elements (feeling “high”), sedation, increased heart rate and anxiety.
At the same time, many might prefer plain ol’ CBD by its lonesome. Even if CBD helps reduce the negative effects of THC, many want to steer clear of anything with potential psychoactive effects. Not to mention, THC does show up on drug tests, and nobody wants to lose their job while trying to take care of themselves! (Wouldn’t that be a major buzzkill?!)
What Can Animals Teach Us About CBD’s Pain Relieving Properties?
Those lucky little lab rodents know a lot more about CBD firsthand than most human subjects, at least for now! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or, perhaps, a zoologist) to see that animals and humans have major differences. Animal and human biology does have similarities – after all, mice breathe air just like we do – but there are many differences as well. Just because something works great for fido or Mickey doesn’t automatically mean it’ll help grandma’s arthritis, but at the same time – we gotta learn from what we DO know.
One study examined how CBD could help mice with diabetes (they just couldn’t lay off the donuts!). When CBD was administered early in the course of the disease, it helped reduce hypersensitivity to pain. Interestingly, giving them CBD later in their disease process had little effect on pain, so timing may be an important aspect – more research is needed to know for sure!
We also have good news for those elderly mice hobbling around with their walkers! When topical CBD was rubbed on mice with arthritis, it reduced joint swelling and pain.
Another interesting study injected CBD into mice and rats, which reduced chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain. What’s awesome about this study is that, unlike with opioid drugs, the rats and mice did not appear to build up a tolerance to CBD levels. If these findings also apply to humans, this shows tremendous potential for addiction-free pain relief!
CBD for Pain Management: Are There Reasons to Worry?
While CBD has generally been found safe so far, there are still some reasons to take caution – especially if you’re already taking medications for pain or other health concerns.
According to one study, serious interactions between pharmaceutical drugs and CBD have not yet been documented, but there is reason to be wary. Over 60% of pharmaceuticals are processed in the liver by the same enzymes that process CBD, called cytochrome p450 enzymes. Some of these drugs will come with a warning against eating grapefruit, which inhibits the same enzymes.
Some of these drugs include blood thinners, macrolides, calcium channel blockers, benzodiazepines, cyclosporine, PDE5 inhibitors, antihistamines, haloperidol, antiretrovirals, some statins, SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers and opioids (16). With drugs like the blood thinner warfarin, for example, CBD may make a higher dose of the drug available in the bloodstream for longer periods than usual – which can result in serious problems. Monitoring blood levels of warfarin while on CBD may be one solution, but that’s for you and your doc to discuss and create a plan.
Notice the last set of drugs in this list? Opioids, like codeine and oxycodone! If you’re already taking these drugs for pain, it may be a challenge to try integrating CBD into your health regime.That said, your doctor may have more specific advice, so be careful and ask a professional before diving in.
Many Won’t Wait for Science to Catch Up With CBD Pain Treatment!
Unfortunately, the current science is lagging far behind the “success stories” that can be found all over the internet. Research takes a lot more time and money than it does to set up a CBD shop and get it in the hands of desperate people suffering! If you’re curious and don’t currently take any pharmaceuticals, you may want to join the world of self-experimenters and see how CBD can help you. If you’re taking pharmaceuticals, talk with your doc first because there’s no point in harming yourself while you’re just trying to feel better! And while CBD may not be for everyone, many are finding great relief, and it’s wonderful to have ever-increasing options to try!
Sarah has a Ph.D in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Arizona. Her current research spans the fields of trauma, psychology, neurobiology and sociology.