CAN POT’S CANNABIDIOL (CBD) MAKE IT INTO MAINSTREAM MEDICAL TREATMENT?
With medical marijuana now legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, many patients may be asking themselves, ‘Is it right for me?’ ‘Can it help treat my condition?’ The answer is both “maybe” and “let’s wait and see,” depending on the condition, each patient’s particular diagnosis, and the results of future research.
Several clinical and observational studies have suggested that some of the chemicals contained in marijuana – also known as cannabis – may help treat some medical conditions and their symptoms. One of the more active of these chemicals is Cannabidiol (CBD). Preliminary studies conducted with oral CBD suggest that it has therapeutic properties that may help relieve some of the symptoms associated with a variety of chronic and difficult-to-treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, nausea, bowel disorders, and schizophrenia.
Evidence of CBD’s antiseizure properties for example, suggests that it may be helpful in treating some forms of epilepsy but the findings to date have been inconclusive. The mechanism of action is not known but researchers believe that CBD impacts areas of the brain responsible for the sudden surge of electrical activity that result in seizures
It’s been reported that for some children born with Dravet syndrome – a severe form of epilepsy – CBD can be a well-tolerated treatment that may reduce the number of seizures. There have been a few reports from parents of children who were given oral CBD of a noticeable reduction in their child’s seizures – in one instance down from 40-50 a day to fewer than 10. CBD may also result in fewer side effects than currently available treatments for Dravet syndrome. However, the studies to date are preliminary and not conclusive.
While it is one of over 60 members of the cannabinoid family and provides the sedative effect of cannabis, CBD does not contain the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that delivers the ‘high’ of cannabis. Scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) stated before a Congressional panel that CBD appears to act on other receptor signaling systems in the brain, and that these actions may contribute to its therapeutic effects. They did caution however, that more research is needed to evaluate CBD’s effectiveness.
CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties have also been identified in early clinical studies. Researchers believe that CBD may bind to certain receptors and that action may help to minimize the pain and discomfort associated with some autoimmune diseases like arthritis. It may also help reduce the inflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Patients with mental health disorders such as acute anxiety and some forms of psychosis such as schizophrenia may benefit from some form of treatment with CBD, as suggested by a small preliminary study. The cause of action for this is not clear but CBD may prevent the breakdown of a chemical in the brain that affects pain, mood, and mental function. Keeping this chemical intact and its levels steady in a person’s blood system seems to reduce psychotic symptoms. CBD may even offset the anxiety and panic symptoms that are associated with use of THC.
It doesn’t stop there. CBD may eventually be available as a therapeutic option for other medical and wellness conditions including:
- Appetite suppressant – Unlike THC which stimulates appetite, cannabidiol has the opposite effect and may have potential as a weight loss aid.
- Cancerous tumor growth inhibitor – Preclinical research indicates CBD is a potent inhibitor of cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and tumor growth and may be an effective, non-toxic therapy to treat aggressive forms of cancer.
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD) – CBD may help minimize the symptoms associated with this psychological condition, which typically manifests as intense fear in social situations.
The future is likely to bring more clinical trial data and user reports of CBD, and a greater understanding of this chemical. This in turn, may provide additional evidence that CBD can potentially manage and eliminate certain patients’ disease-related symptoms, treatment-related side effects, and possibly improve patients’ outcomes and quality of life. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, CBD will be looked to as a stand-alone treatment or adjunct to current therapies for some patients. In the meantime, patients should always consult their physician regarding the therapy options available to them, and evaluate the risks and benefits of each.
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