More Americans suffer from pain than from diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Chronic pain accounts for the vast majority of people using long-term disability benefits, and also accounts for the most hospital visits per year than any other health issue. Chronic pain can bring someone to their knees, and dramatically change the course of their life as they attempt to manage their pain experience. Pain, when experienced on a daily basis, is literally debilitating for millions upon millions of people around the world. It impacts quality of life, personal relationships, and professional development.
Although medication exists which can alleviate the experience of chronic and acute pain, they are currently insufficient for long term relief. This is because the primary prescribed drug is an opioid variant, and opioids are all extremely powerful but immensely addictive substances. They are so problematic that they have caused a serious prescription drug overdose and abuse crisis across North America. With the rising opioid crisis, it is clear that the current status of chronic pain treatment is not sustainable and that is where a substance called cannabidiol (CBD) comes into play. Cannabidiol has been shown, scientifically and anecdotally, to reduce pain, often when opioids have failed. It is able to reduce pain while simultaneously improving the quality of life, and is devoid of all risk of side effects that is usually associated with modern day pain treatment.
A Review of the Research
Current research supports the potency of cannabinoids (including CBD) for treatment of pain caused by the following illnesses:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Chronic Inflammation
- Neuropathic Pain
- Intractable Cancer Pain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Interestingly, some pharmaceuticals have been approved for use in pain treatment (in Canada, Europe, and even the USA) that are actually synthetic cannabinoids.
There are many avenues that CBD and other cannabinoids are thought to affect the perception of pain. Each theory being discussed here is supported by robust preliminary research, but as with many areas of CBD use, they all require more in-depth study before solid conclusions can be made.
Serotonin Receptors:Serotonin is responsible for regulating many biological processes like mood, sleep, and thermoregulation, plus plays a complex role in the experience of chronic pain. Cannabinoids have been found to both increase production of serotonin, and decrease the synaptosomal uptake, meaning more serotonin stays around for longer, maintaining better mood, thermoregulation and pain regulation.
Trigeminovascular System:This system revolves around the trigeminal nerve and cerebral blood vessels. It may be responsible for some forms of migraines and headaches. It is theorized that cannabinoids may help regulate this system for the alleviation of this type of acute pain.
Glutamatergic system:Responsible for the internal communication (neurotransmissions) for the majority of the nervous system, the glutamatergic system is directly linked to chronic pain. Interestingly, cannabinoids have been found to limit glutamate release, and THC in particular has been found to reduce the release of a specific pain related mechanism within this system (NMDA) by upwards of 40%.
Beta-endorphins:Endorphins are produced within the pituitary gland, and are well known as powerful pain suppressants. Cannabinoids are evidenced to stimulate increased beta-endorphins, and thereby shown to reduce pain.
Opioid Interactions:An extremely interesting interaction has been noted between opioids and CBD. Scientists have found that not only does CBD treatment in conjunction with opioid therapy reduce the development of opioid tolerance, it also reduces the experience of opioid withdrawal. On top of this, CBD can revitalize the opioid’s pain suppression effects, even after the opioids initially wore off.
How to take CBD for Pain
Finding the perfect personal dosage of CBD isn’t an exact science, at least at this point in time. Although the research is working to catch up to people’s personal experiences, there isn’t currently an approved industry wide dosage guide for CBD use. Part of the problem is that different brands have different potencies, making it hard to indicate that 10 mg of one brand will equal the results of 10 mg of another brand. It also comes down to the fact that CBD dose is dramatically affected by body type, lifestyle (diet and physical activity), specific pain being treated and likely a host of other variables. Dosage will vary between each individual, however there are some recommendations for how to use CBD for pain.
- Do your research beforehand, read individual experiences available on forums, online articles from trusted sources and the available scientific research. Be sure to investigate cases specific to your pain (i.e., joint and muscle inflammation, Cystic fibrosis, MS related).
- If possible consult with a medical professional prior to use, and consider your own personal variables (illness, body type, etc.).
- Start with the minimum recommended dose. In a brief overview of the research, this can be as low as 1-2 mg every few hours. Slowly increase over the course of a few days, until you begin to experience relief. Slow and steady increase is the name of the game, however, the highest dose seems to top out at roughly 20 mg.