Cannabis and Chronic Pain: How CBD Can Help Manage Pain

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) has been reported by many new users to help manage their chronic pain
  •  We look into the “new health craze” to find out how it is helping patients both with their symptoms and their addictions to dangerous pharmaceutical medications

Words by Jessica Jones

Opioid abuse and overdose claimed an estimated 64,000 lives in 2016 alone.

President Donald Trump has recently declared opioid epidemic as a public health emergency and pointed it as the worst drug crisis in the national history.

This crisis raises an urgent need to find an effective solution to the addiction.

Research into cannabidiol (CBD) has shown a lot of potential to be used as a therapy for many addictions as well as for treatment of various disorders and chronic diseases including; cancer, nausea, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and depression, without exerting long-term side effects.

CBD molecule
Cannabidiol (CBD) molecular structure

Studies have shown that it can be helpful in counteracting the effect of opioid and alleviating withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, pain and nausea.

What is CBD?

CBD is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical compound found in many plants, but mainly associated with cannabis.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary cannabinoid found in cannabis, CBD does not produce a psychoactive effect, meaning users do not experience the feeling of being “high” associated with typical cannabis use.

Another benefit of CBD is that it is not addictive, with a very low toxicity level.

CBD offers therapeutic effect thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, and antioxidant profile.

How CBD works
How CBD works in the human body

It is increasingly becoming popular due to its different recreational and medical benefits.


Undergoing research has lifted the stigma associated with CBD and paved the way for research and use in medical industry.

However, it is important to understand that different strains of cannabis produce different effects depending on the ratio of CBD and THC present in it.

Recent research has shown CBD promotes ‘wakefulness,’ therefore has been recommended for treatment of anxiety and depression.

Patients looking to treat these symptoms should look for a strain with higher percentage of CBD and low THC, for example, CD1 (a recent cannabis cup winner) or Charlotte’s Web which have ratios of 20:1 CBD:THC

Candida CBD strain
CD1 a recent cannabis cup winner for its record levels of CBD-THC ratio

Some of the potential benefits that CBD is being used for includes:

  • Cancer– Study conducted by the National Institute of Health has shown that cannabinoids have anti-tumor properties and reduce inflammation. It is also helpful in reducing the painful side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Depression – A study from the University of Rio de Janeiro showed that CBD has considerable potential in treating anxiety and depression along with treatment for its symptoms like insomnia and nausea.
  • Diabetes – A study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that cannabis use lowered the fasting insulin levels and lowers incidence of diabetes.

How does it work?

Every human body has a receptor system known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which is responsible for maintaining and protecting body’s healthy state.

The human body, through the ECS, produces its own cannabinoids which can influence inflammation, pain, and mood.

Cannabis, and cannabis products such as CBD isolates, stimulates the ECS by supplementing these cannabinoids to help the body maintain a healthy functional state.

Cannabinoids from cannabis may be thought of as a “key,” which acts on receptors along the ECS.

The two receptors in the ECS are the CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are located along the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are more often found on immune cells, for example in the gastrointestinal tract or the peripheral nervous system.

endocannabinoid receptor system
CB1 and CB2 receptors and their medical connections

CBD has the potential to alter the emotional reaction to pain. It does not directly affect the pain centers of the brain, hence is not addictive like opioids.

How can you use CBD?

The easiest and most efficient way to use CBD is in the form of an oil. CBD oil can also be taken in form of pills.

CBD medical oil
CBD tincture: the most common form of CBD medication

CBD is also available in the form of topical creams or tinctures which can be less concentrated than oil.

Topicals can be directly applied to the skin, especially useful for combating symptoms related to inflammation. These have been highly recommended by people suffering from arthritic joint pain or muscle aches.

CBD oil can even be consumed by vaping or sprays.

Vaping allows the medicine to enter body quickly while avoiding the harmful side-effects of smoking. Concentrated tinctures can be used as a spray under the tongue.

CBD vape oil
CBD being vaped

A new type of cannabis product delivers both quick and long-lasting relief without the high is CBD patches. For delivering medication into the bloodstream, these transdermal patches are convenient, discreet, and effective.

How is CBD better than conventional painkillers?

Using CBD for pain relief offers many advantages over conventional medicines:

  • The risk of overdose fatality is negligible
  •  No withdrawal symptoms
  • Non-addictive

Side Effects?

While CBD is considered generally safe with only few mild side effects, like any drug it can sometimes come with side-effects.

These side-effects, however, have consistently been reported to be significantly less severe than those associated with traditional pharmaceutical medications.

Some of the reported possible side-effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite

Some people are allergic to CBD oil and therefore application on a small patch of skin is recommended first.

References and further Reading

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