Research in recent years has focused on the two main pharmacologically active cannabinoids: THC and CBDReading Time: 2 minutes
Both Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) cannabinoids have different effects, with THC containing the psychoactive elements, causing the effect of feeling high most commonly associated with cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t produce the same psychoactive effect, because it doesn’t affect the same receptors.
As cannabis becomes legal in progressively more places around the world, we start to see its impacts on the medical community. Its effects have been discussed in relation to insomnia, anxiety, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and a wide range of other conditions. But when it comes to pain, cannabis, and CBD specifically may be the new frontier in pain management.
The human nervous system contains within it an endocannabinoid system or ECS which regulate different functions such as sleep, our immune-system responses, and pain, that processes cannabinoids and produces some of its own endocannabinoids. CBD interacts very differently with the ECS than THC does.
CBD is not yet FDA approved in the United States, it was approved for use in Canada in 2005 specifically for the treatment of central neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis and in 2007 for cancer patients dealing with unmanageable pain, and was also made legal in Canada for recreational use in October 2018. Given the Canadian opioid crisis, it has been pushed as a significantly safer alternative and has been championed as a better option than most conventional pain medications.
A large reason for this is how addictive opioids are in comparison to cannabis. The withdrawal symptoms of cannabis are akin to that of a heavy coffee drinker giving up the caffeinated beverage – headaches, irritability, insomnia, most of which are relatively mild. The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can be infinitely more severe, causing intense flu-like symptoms including vomiting, fever, body aches, and other similarly debilitating symptoms. Where opioids attach themselves to the opioid receptors in the human nervous system, cannabinoids engage with CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the ECS. It simply activates or inhibits certain compounds within the ECS, working with it instead of altering it.
As such, its effects are gentler, but also more naturally effective. It’s for these reasons that CBD specifically has had a huge impact on pain treatment, and the way in which it functions as an anti-inflammatory analgesic. It’s now more commonly used for the treatment of arthritis pain, with animal studies having been done to show its impact on the central nervous system. It continues to be used for the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis, treating the constant pain caused by severe muscle spasms that are often unmanageable with the disease, as well as autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, to name a few.
If you’re interested in exploring medical cannabis in the treatment or management of your pain, consult with your physician about your options. CBD and medical cannabis are opening new doors and broadening the options available to patients that that simply didn’t exist before.