Athletes are using CBD oil to kill pain but it’s risky and unproven
In January 2018, rugby player Dom Day was recuperating from a knee operation, and searching online for something that could speed up his recovery. The Saracens player came across an article about cannabidiol (CBD), which had recently been taken off the banned substances list by the World Anti-Doping Organisation.
CBD is an extract of the cannabis plant derived from hemp, which has lower concentrations of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than marijuana. It has exploded in popularity as a health supplement, with users claiming it helps them dull chronic pain and inflammation, turn down the symptoms of anxiety, and get better sleep. In the US, sales are expected to hit a billion dollars by 2020, and in the UK you can buy CBD on the high street in the form of cannabis oil.
Day recommended CBD to a teammate, George Kruis who first started using it while recovering from an ankle injury, and now the pair are regular users. “I spray it under the tongue for a minute or two and then just go about my business,” explains Kruis, who says he takes CBD in the evenings to help him sleep and calm him down. Day, meanwhile, treats it more like a vitamin supplement – taking it each morning and night.
The problem for athletes is that while CBD is legal, THC is still banned, and a rigorous process is required to fully separate the two chemicals during the process that turns hemp into cannabis oil. This year, American free-skier Devin Logan received a three-month suspension from the US Anti-Doping Agency for failing a drugs test, which she says was down to using a CBD-based product that still had some traces of THC.
“There is always a risk when buying any supplement bought in shops or over the internet, quite simply these products are less well regulated than medicines and you won’t know what is in it,” says Marcus Rattray, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Bradford. “As these oils are extracts from cannabis, which has well over 80 different chemical components, they will all vary in the amounts of CBD and other cannabinoids, and may contain impurities.”
Kruis and Day founded a company, fourfiveCBD, to tackle that problem – and have launched the first cannabis oil product that’s been certified as having no cross-contamination with THC. They run an additional extraction process beyond that done by other companies. Pressurised carbon dioxide is used to separate the chemicals from the hemp plant. “We’ve done that one step further to take out that trace level,” say Day.
In the UK, anything with more than 0.2 per cent THC is classed as medicinal marijuana, and is illegal, but THC can build up in the system over time. FourfiveCBD offer a cannabis oil product, which costs £74.99 for 1000mg, with zero per cent THC by weight, and no contamination with other banned substances.
Because they’re selling CBD as a supplement – akin to a multivitamin tablet – fourfiveCBD is not allowed to make any medical claims about its effectiveness as a painkiller or anti-inflammatory. But it’s clear that CBD is being used for that purpose by athletes across a wide range of sports, including rugby, which has had widespread issues around the use and overuse of opioid-based painkillers and other off-the-shelf drugs.
CBD works on a different system of neurotransmitters within the brain, says Elizabeth Phillips, an independent consultant for fourfiveCBD. “It modulates the endocannabinoid system,” she says – smoothing out the peaks and troughs but without blocking other responses in the body, as some painkillers do.
But does CBD actually work? Anecdotal evidence of the pain relief of smoking cannabis has existed for a long time, and is reflected in recent law changes in some countries around medicinal marijuana for the treatment of conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Clinical trials have found that combinations of CBD and THC are effective, says Rattray, but “there are no clinical trial studies yet on CBD alone (or cannabis oil), and so there is no good evidence that it is a painkiller,” he says.
Andrew Moore, an expert on pain treatment at the University of Oxford, goes further. “The higher the quality of the clinical trials, the less effect is seen,” he says. “This is not unusual, and is what we often see.” He points to the fact there are very few clinical trials of CBD still ongoing, which suggests that pharmaceutical companies don’t have the confidence to spend big taking it through the medical approval process.
For athletes, there’s more at stake than just taking a supplement that doesn’t work – failed drugs tests can jeopardise careers, and CBD could also cause problems when travelling to play in countries where it’s still illegal. The UK Anti Doping Agency says using CBD is “at the athlete’s own risk”.
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CBD is one of the natural compounds found in cannabis plants. It is completely legal, non-addictive, and contains no psychoactive compounds. Millions of people have discovered the profound benefits CBD can have on a range of concerns such as pain-relief, stress-relief, recovery after workouts, better sleep, heightened focus, and better moods. This means CBD has revolutionised wellness, through allowing people to reconnect with natural wellness, as a trusted, scientific alternative to prescription or over-the-counter medications.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound in cannabis that is psychoactive. This means it can get you ‘high’, and is illegal in most countries. Puresport CBD is 0% THC, meaning there are no traces of THC in our CBD. This is verified by three separate independent labs. Further details of our stringent triple-batch testing can be found in our lab reports, which can be found below.
The main difference between CBD & THC is that CBD is legal in most countries, as it is non psychoactive (this means it doesn’t get you ‘high’). THC on the other hand, is psychoactive, meaning it does get you ‘high’, and is illegal in most countries. Another main difference is that people use CBD to enhance their wellness in relation to issues such sleep, muscle recovery, pain, stress, energy levels, and concentration. Whereas, most people taking THC will do so for recreational purposes.
WADA is the World Anti-Doping Association. Their job is to monitor and prevent the usage of performance enhancing, illegal drugs in athletes. As CBD contains 0% THC, it is not classed as a banned substance. It is WADA’s role to maintain these standards, and the stringent testing CBD is subject to. Puresport is the most tested and trusted CBD in the world, setting and raising industry standards due to our rigorous testing process, and complete transparency in how we make our CBD and what is in it.
Puresport’s CBD is subject to rigorous third party testing. Products are tested by three separate, independent laboratories throughout Europe. This ensures products meet label-claims, contain 0% THC, and are free from other chemicals and additives such as synthetic cannabinoids, herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals. All products are also vegan, GMO free & gluten free. Puresport has a range of products which have been approved by the BSCG (Banned Substance Control Group). Although all of Puresport’s products contain 0% THC, this specific range has been further tested and approved for usage by drug-tested athletes and professionals. This range includes 1500mg CBD Ginger & Turmeric Capsules, 1000mg Muscle & Joint Balm, 1500mg CBD Oil & 3000mg CBD Oil (as well as all of our adaptogens).
CBD binds to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, these are responsible for a range physiological responses such as pain-reception, concentration, appetite, mood, memory & more. As CBD is a natural product, it affects each person differently, meaning the time taken to feel benefits varies from person to person. We recommend taking CBD on a mid to long term basis, as the benefits compound – meaning the longer you take it for, the more it can benefit you.
Adaptogens are naturally occurring compounds (often plants, or herbs), which can have profound benefits in helping a range of wellness concerns. Adaptogens ‘adapt’ to you body and mind, meaning they can work with your hormones, and brain receptors to help optimise you physical and mental functioning.
Nootropics are a specific type of adaptogen, which specifically help cognitive functioning. This means Nootropics are used by people to aid concentration, focus, and creativity, and can help the mind deal with stress and anxiety. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as ‘study-drugs’ or ‘smart-drugs’. Nootropics are completely legal, and naturally occurring compounds, often derived from plants, herbs, or fungi.
Medicinal mushrooms are naturally occurring fungi including mushrooms you may have heard of like Lions Mane, Reishi, Shiitake, and Chaga. Medicinal mushrooms are not psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms). This means (unlike magic mushrooms) they are completely legal, with no psychoactive properties – so they don’t get you high. Medicinal mushrooms are benefitting millions of people globally through their profound ability to work with the hormones and receptors in your brain to help optimise your mental and physical response to factors such as stress, focus, creativity & concentration.
Medicinal mushrooms are not psilocybin mushrooms (‘magic’ mushrooms). This means (unlike ‘magic’ mushrooms) they are completely legal, with no psychoactive properties – so they don’t get you high. Medicinal mushrooms are commonly used to enhance health and wellbeing, whereas ‘magic’ mushrooms are ordinarily taken recreationally.
Puresport has crafted a range of nootropic and adaptogenic supplements, designs to nourish health and wellbeing. All of our supplements are in capsule-form, designed to be taken 1-2 times daily with water. The time of day when the capsule is to be taken can vary depending on the desired outcome. Puresport products are created to be taken in conjunction with each other, aiming to compound potential benefits of adaptogens and nootropics, to have overall health and wellbeing benefits. Adaptogen and nootropic supplements can be taken in conjunction with CBD. Do not exceed more than 70mg of CBD per day. We recommend consulting a medical professional before introducing any new substance into routine.