Americans are using more prescription medications now than at any period in history.
We use prescription medicine for everything from simple acne to serious mental, physical and emotional conditions.
In fact, the United States is one of the only places in the world where you will see prescription medication advertised on television- a practice that is illegal nearly everywhere else.
We see these advertisements constantly, and no one raises an eyebrow anymore when the narration of the commercial suddenly goes into double-time, listing the various side effects of these medications.
If we slow down the speech and listen to these effects, however, it gets a little scary.
One medication, commonly prescribed for anxiety, depression and eating disorders, lists 15 “common” side effects on its website, followed by a disclaimer to tell a doctor if you experience more serious conditions.
Alarmingly, these include worsening depression and suicidal thoughts or ideas.
Other medications can have dangerous withdrawal symptoms if patients stop taking them, while many medications prescribed for pain are opiate-based and carry the risk of crippling addiction.
With so many Americans taking prescription medications that are known to have dangerous side effects, many of us have been looking for alternative treatments, or at least for ways to supplement our medications with less harmful products.
Recently, many have been turning to cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis. There are over 80 of these compounds in the plant, including THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.
THC is the compound that gets you “high” when you smoke or ingest cannabis. Once extracted from the plant, however, isolate CBD does not have the same psychoactive effect as THC: it will not get you high.
What it does, however, is turning out to be quite remarkable. And while no one is suggesting that anyone stop using medications that may be life-saving, a surprising amount of evidence is starting to stack up that shows this one simple compound can have dramatic healing effects if used properly.
Here, we will explore just a few of these effects as experienced by CBD users. Later on in this article, we will look at some of the different ways people are using CBD, and will examine its complicated legal status.
Some Uses For CBD
Treating Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Stress is one of the leading causes of illness today. With the demands of our frantically-paced, overwhelming culture, it should come as no surprise that many Americans suffer from serious stress, and often from legitimately diagnosable anxiety disorders.
These can include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder, and more. In fact, the list is quite long. Most of these disorders are currently treated with a class of medicine called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs as they are better known.
These include medications like Lexapro. And while these medications have shown to be effective in many cases, they also come with some nasty side effects, which we’ve already covered in the beginning of this article. Additionally, SSRI patients have to be weaned off their medicines, as simply stopping them can be dangerous. SSRI Withdrawal Syndrome can be serious if not treated.
Another major class of drug often prescribed for anxiety is benzodiazepines. Drugs in this class include Valium, and Lorazepan. While these drugs can be useful especially for treating acute anxiety or panic, they are habit forming and can be extremely addictive. Unlike SSRIs, withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be fatal in some cases, as the brain undergoes a similar process as in withdrawal from alcohol.
Treating anxiety and depression is one of the best-known uses of CBD. By interfering with the excretion of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in the adrenal gland, and by dampening the brain’s stress receptors, CBD can help regulate stress.
While cortisol is essential to human survival (it is what triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response to danger), too much of it or to constant of a release of it, both of which are unfortunately realities of modern life, can have serious long-term and short-term effects on the body and the mind.
Additionally, CBD may stimulate the body’s production of melatonin, important in regulating sleep cycles and strengthening the body’s response to stress.
Managing Chronic Pain
Another area where conventional treatments have been proven to be dangerous is the treatment pf chronic pain. Often, doctors will prescribe opioid pain relievers such as codeine or stronger opiates like Oxycontin.
While these drugs are usually effective in the short term, tolerance builds quickly, meaning that a patient needs to take greater doses to achieve the same results. Opiates are of course highly addictive, and carry the serious risk of accidental overdose.
CBD is useful in the management of pain because it activates the body’s two main endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.
These receptors are found throughout the brain and central nervous system, and work by regulating the release of neurotransmitter cells that regulate pain levels in the body.
For many patients, simply stopping an opioid regiment may not be an option. However, because cannabidiol and opioids have several shared medical properties, it has been suggested that using the two together can significantly reduce pain levels.
Many studies show improvement in pain management when using CBD. One study in particular showed a decrease of 27% in perceived pain levels when patients combined CBD and opioids, when measured against the opioid on its own.
Another class of pain-management medication is anti-inflammatory drugs. These are useful in fighting acute pain, and include steroids such as Prednisone, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs like ibuprofen. Ibuprofen works well in reducing inflammation and pain, but is toxic to the kidneys and can lead to long-term damage if overused. Steroids cause troubling effects such as hair thinning, weakening connective tissue, and muscle fatigue as well as serious issues like suppression of the immune system.
CBD, on the other hand, is a natural anti-inflammatory, is not known to be toxic to the kidneys or to any other system, and causes none of the effects of steroidal medications.
Additionally, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a helpful tool in managing inflammation-related disease, such a gout, Crohn’s disease, and arthritis. This is extremely important, as the body can be seriously harmed by chronic inflammation over the long-term, especially in the heart and blood vessels.
In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are probably too numerous to list here. But literally any problem that has its root in inflammation can be helped with CBD use. This includes acne (caused by inflammation of the sebaceous glands), diabetes (overproduction of insulin can be one of the body’s ways of fighting inflammation), muscle spasms and pain related to multiple sclerosis (caused by inflammation of the nervous systems) and many, many more.
Ways To Use CBD
There are many ways you can use CBD. Some are great for delivering the highest concentration of CBD in one use, while others are geared more towards convenience, discretion, and ease of use. Here, we will look at some of the most popular. These include:
Tinctures: One of the easiest ways to use CBD is in a tincture, mixed with a carrier oil such as MCT oil (a kind of coconut oil). The advantage of tinctures is that they can be mixed with other naturally occurring compounds, such as terpenes, to produce a variety of helpful effects ranging from enhanced calming to help with smoking cessation. Another benefit of CBD tinctures is that the user can regulate their own dose, trying different levels of CBD until they find a dose that works best for them. Tinctures are taken orally, either directly by putting a few drops under the tongue, or by mixing them with water or another beverage. Tinctures are available in a variety of flavors and strengths.
Capsules: CBD capsules are a good choice if you are looking to be discrete and to take a specifically measured dose each time. They are also good for users who don’t like the taste of CBD, or who want a more discrete method of taking the product. One drawback to capsules is that while each one may have the same volume of CBD oil, the actual strength of the extract isn’t necessarily constant from vendor to vendor, or even capsule to capsule.
Topicals: CBD topicals are products that are meant to be applied externally to the skin, rather than being consumed. This is especially good for dealing with inflammation in joints like the knees or wrists in cases of arthritis and other inflammatory ailments. Topicals are available in CBD massage oils, lotion, salve, soap and other forms. One drawback to topical CBD products is that they are often more expensive than other products because they are mixed with other ingredients such as skin moisturizers or soap.
CBD Oil Concentrates: As the name implies, these are highly concentrated forms of CBD, usually in the form of a wax or paste. This is generally the highest concentration of CBD available and so is good for those who may need higher doses. While the taste is often considered unpleasant, CBD oil concentrates are available in a variety of flavors, and can also be added to other foods to mask the taste. Because CBD oil concentrates offer such a high dosage, they may not be the best option for someone who is just starting to experiment with CBD medication.
CBD Vaporizers: With the popularity of vaping in today’s society, along with the fact that smoking is one of the traditional methods of using cannabis, it isn’t surprising that CBD vaporizers and vape oil products should be one of the most popular methods of using CBD. The vaporizer products are compact, lightweight and easy to use, and don’t carry the risks of spillage or of stained clothing that other CBD products do. Because vaporizers produce steam vapor instead of smoke, they are much healthier for the lungs, throat and mouth than traditional smoking methods. However, because of the obvious nature of vaping and the tell-tale odor of cannabis, CBD vape products are far from discreet and may not be a good option in jurisdictions where medical or recreational cannabis use is still highly illegal.
The Legality Of CBD
This brings us to our final area of focus. While the medical and scientific communities are quickly realizing the healing potential of cannabis overall and of CBD in particular, marijuana remains an illegal drug in the United States and in many other countries. And while many states have recently adopted reasonable laws allowing for medical and recreational cannabis use, the Federal Government still classifies cannabis as a controlled substance. Recently, there has been a push from some within the government to persecute users on a federal level even in states where use is legal, although this has met with serious reservation from most.
That being said, it is important that any cannabis user knows the legality of what he or she is doing. Keep in mind that until relatively recently, cannabis was illegal everywhere in the United States, with some areas offering harsh penalties such as long prison sentences for possession of even small amounts.
While there are a number of resources available online (see: Is CBD Legal?) to determine the legality of cannabis in your community, the best advice is always to seek legal counsel if you have a legal question. There are many attorneys who specialize in cannabis law and would be happy to offer advice. Some may even have free legal resources available on their websites.
As always, it is every individual’s responsibility to know and understand your rights under the law.
In summation, CBD is a promising, helpful, and natural compound that may offer an alternative to many dangerous prescription medications. We are just now beginning to understand the many uses for this fascinating plant. Hopefully we will continue to grow as a society towards healing with nature’s gifts, instead of perpetuating pain and addiction with engineered chemicals. Society stands poised to enter a new era of healing and relief with this amazing compound. If you would like to know more, please contact us.