What is the deal with CBD oil?

I get asked about what I think about CBD oil all the time by my patients.  I’d like to think I approach these questions with an open mind.  Since a few years ago, ads for CBD oil are cropping up everywhere.  I have seen my mail and pack shop, movie rental place, and even the hair salon peddling CBD oil products with varying claims of treating or helping with many health-related problems. 

But what is CBD oil?  CBD is short for Cannabidiol, one of the many substances from the cannabis or hemp plant. CBD does not cause a “high” or have any abuse potential like THC (delta 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol)  does. For CBD oil to be produced and sold legally in the states, the oil must have 0.3% or less of THC. 

What does CBD do?  Well, the effects of CBD are still controversial.  It very much reminds me of “snake oil” salesmen of old. There is a lot of money to be made with a “cure-all” and “fix all” product.  There are many claims: from treating schizophrenia symptoms, anxiety, insomnia, and pain to being a cure-all for cancer.  While some of these claims have some small possibility, the claim regarding cancer cure is downright dangerous.  There have been very few studies so far showing the effectiveness of CBD.   So far, CBD has only been FDA approved (Epidiolex) to treat two very rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

What is interesting to me is that there are so many reports of successful treatments with CBD oil.  I am wondering if any of this success can be attributed to the placebo-effect. Especially in the treatment of pain, the placebo effect can be very powerful.

How safe is CBD oil and related products? The FDA has not yet approved any non-prescription CBD oil products for use for treatment of any conditions or diseases.  The FDA is currently working on establishing possible risks of consuming these products.  The FDA also enforces and attempts to shut down certain drug claims that are being advertised.  It has recently sent out warning letters to 15 different companies that are producing or selling products containing CBD.  These letters warn about companies claiming treatment and curing of serious diseases including cancer. The products also do not qualify as a dietary supplement or as an additive to any food product and are being marketed as such without FDA approval.  The doses of CBD found in various products appears to vary by as much as 10 times of what is stated on the bottles.  There have been some reports of liver toxicity in mice who were fed high doses of these products. 

While its clear that many of the claims regarding CBD oil and related products are exaggerated and sometimes downright false, the truth of CBD oil effectiveness is still very much unknown.  I have not completely made up my mind about CBD oil and its use for pain management.  The jury is still out on this for me.  For more definitive ways to treat your pain, consult with us at Southwest Pain Management.

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