CBD Oil: Risks, Side Effects, and What You Need to Know
Alternative treatments for pain have been in practice for thousands of years. The use of herbs, plants, and the ancient practice of acupuncture for medicinal purposes were in existence long before modern medicine. In recent years, CBD oils and products have seemingly risen to popularity out of nowhere, but scientists have been studying cannabidiol (CBD) since the 1970s.
Dr. Nichelle Renk of Alpenglow Pain & Wellness , in Anchorage, Alaska, is a board-certified pain management physician and anesthesiologist who takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating pain. Dr. Renk customizes a variety of treatments for your specific needs, merging traditional medicine and alternative treatments, so you can get the most effective, long-term pain relief from your chronic condition.
If you’re considering CBD oil for pain management, explore this overview of the risks, side effects, and other important information, so you can make an educated decision about what’s best for you.
What is cannabidiol?
Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in the cannabis (marijuana) and hemp plants. According to the World Health Organization , CBD “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential,” meaning that CBD is not addictive or habit-forming like other pain medications, including opioids, which are commonly prescribed for pain.
CBD oil has demonstrated effectiveness in treating several types of medical conditions, including epilepsy, and it may help relieve chronic pain. Additionally, one does not need increased dose of CBD over time.
Unlike another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause a “high” feeling, so you can potentially relieve pain without alterations to your mood or thinking.
Risk and side effects of CBD
While there’s no evidence to support an addictive nature of CBD oil, you should consult Dr. Renk before you begin using it to help manage your pain. For example, if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, if your immune system is compromised in some way, or you currently take prescription drugs, CBD oil may not be an ideal treatment.
Otherwise, the vast majority of studies of CBD conclude that CBD is safe and effective at helping you manage an array of health issues.
In clinical trials, when high doses of CBD oil were given to patients, the most common side effects included feeling tired, gastrointestinal issues, and a decreased appetite. Altered liver enzymes were another concern, but again, only after receiving very high doses of CBD in clinical trials, and participants were also taking prescription medications known to damage the liver.
It’s important to note that CBD may interact with your current medications, so it’s imperative that you consult with Dr. Renk before adding CBD oil to your pain management treatments.
CBD oil for chronic pain management
With minimal side effects and risks, you might be wondering if adding CBD to your pain management treatment plan is beneficial. How exactly does CBD relieve pain?
It inhibits inflammatory agents so it can help dull tingling, prickling, and burning sensations associated with some types of chronic pain. This often makes CBD oil an effective supplement for neuropathic pain and other types of pain caused by inflammation.
Recent studies also indicate that CBD oil may be effective at relieving headache and migraine pain , and for arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, which causes joint pain and stiffness. The National Cancer Institute also notes that CBD can potentially reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatments, including pain, decreased appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
The bottom line on CBD for pain management
Based on what we know about CBD oil and the clinical trials that are available, for the most part, you don’t have to worry about unpleasant side effects or a long-term, addictive nature to CBD oil. As part of a comprehensive pain management plan, CBD oil may help you reduce other medications that do come with side effects and the potential to form a drug dependency.
However, as with any type of treatment, it’s best to consult your physician before beginning something new. Dr. Renk can warn you of any potential drug interactions that CBD could have with your current prescription or over-the-counter pain medications.
Schedule a consultation by calling our office in Anchorage at 907-313-2976, or send us a message online anytime.
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Medical Cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome [Is It Effective?]
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a rare genetic condition that affects the way the body produces or processes collagen. It can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from joint hypermobility to life-threatening organ ruptures. However, one of the most common problems for people with Ehlers-Danlos is chronic pain.
For patients wishing to avoid opioid painkillers, medical marijuana may seem like a safer alternative. But how effective is cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome? Read on to find out.
What Is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) affects approximately 1 in 5000 people globally. It is an inherited disorder that causes the body to produce or process collagen abnormally.
Collagen is the protein responsible for giving strength and structure to the connective tissue.
It is a vital component of joints, ligaments, tendons, and skin. It also helps to form organs’ internal walls, including the blood vessels and digestive tract.
Therefore, people with EDS may have symptoms that affect any of these structures.
There are at least 13 forms of EDS. Each has distinctive characteristics, but there is also a degree of overlap in their clinical features. Some of the most common EDS symptoms include:
- Joint hypermobility
- Frequent full or partial dislocations
- Chronic pain
- Early-onset osteoarthritis
- Soft, fragile, loose, or elastic skin
- Bruising easily
- Increased risk of organ or blood vessel ruptures
- Increased risk of prolapses or hernias
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Menstrual disorders
- Increased risk of complications during pregnancy
Some forms of EDS can reduce life expectancy, usually due to cardiovascular complications. However, other types are less dangerous, and many people with EDS can live long, although somewhat restricted lives.
What Causes Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
EDS develops due to inherited mutations in the genes responsible for collagen production.
Some forms of EDS follow an autosomal recessive pattern, meaning that both parents must carry the genetic mutations to pass them on. However, other types follow an autosomal dominant pattern and can be inherited from just one parent.
Traditional Ehlers-Danlos Treatments
There is no cure for EDS. Therefore, treatment aims to manage symptoms and reduce complications. Some of the most common treatments for EDS include:
- Pain management, including opioid painkillers
- Physical therapy
- Assistive devices, such as mobility aids
- Frequent cardiovascular workups
- Psychological support
In some instances, surgery may be necessary. However, some types of EDS can increase the risk of complications such as bleeding, healing issues, and post-surgical hernias.
Due to the limited treatment options for EDS, some patients are turning to medical cannabis. But how does it help, and is it actually effective? Let’s take a look.
Medical Cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
There is currently no research specifically on cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. However, many studies support its use for chronic pain.
For example, a small 2002 study found that 12/15 participants experienced improvements in pain and mood with a low dose of smoked cannabis. Furthermore, 11/15 participants reported improvements in sleep.
A 2018 survey of 984 medical marijuana patients with chronic pain supported these results. When the survey asked how effectively cannabis relieved the participants’ symptoms, the average score was 74.7%.
There are also many anecdotal reports suggesting medical cannabis could benefit patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. One example, highlighted by the medical journal The Lancet, discusses the case of a British woman named Lucy Stafford.
By age 19, Stafford had already received many treatments for EDS, including the potent opioid fentanyl. She had undergone numerous surgeries and addiction to the painkiller tramadol. However, it was only when she began using medical cannabis that her pain became manageable.
Other reports claim that cannabis helps with cramps and spasms and “offers relief no pharmaceutical can.”
Despite the potential benefits, no states currently list EDS as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. However, several states do permit it as a treatment for chronic, severe, or intractable pain.
THC vs. CBD for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
To date, most of the research on cannabis for chronic pain has focused on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the compound responsible for cannabis’ intoxicating effects. It also provides a series of potential benefits, including muscle relaxation and pain relief.
THC induces these effects by binding with cell receptors known as CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system. These receptors are designed to interact with chemicals called endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce.
THC has a similar molecular shape to these compounds. Therefore, it can influence their receptors and mimic their effects. In fact, THC binds with CB1 receptors even more fully than our endocannabinoids, which is why its effects are so potent.
In recent years, scientists have become more interested in a different cannabis compound, cannabidiol (CBD).
Unlike THC, it does not bind directly with CB1 receptors. Instead, it affects the body by increasing the activity of our endocannabinoids. Therefore, it does not cause intoxication or other THC side effects, such as dizziness or paranoia.
Furthermore, it is possible to extract CBD from industrial hemp as well as marijuana. This fact means that it is far more widely available than THC, even in many states without medical cannabis laws.
Like THC, CBD could possibly offer some relief to patients with pain due to EDS. A 2019 study followed 97 patients with chronic pain for eight weeks while supplementing their treatment regime with CBD. At the end of the study period, 53% of the participants had reduced or stopped their opioid medication. Moreover, 94% of the participants reported improved quality of life.
Therefore, CBD could provide a viable alternative to THC for patients without access to medical marijuana. It is also an option for those who simply wish to avoid intoxication or impairment.
Best Strains for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
When it comes to the best strains for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there is no evidence that one is better than another. However, many people choose indica-dominant strains for chronic pain conditions due to their more body-focused effects.
Some popular examples include:
(100% indica, 20% THC) (90% indica, 18.5% THC) (60% indica, 22.5% THC)
The downside of these strains is that they tend to cause relaxation and drowsiness. Therefore, they are potentially more suitable for evening use. For those wishing to remain functional during the day, a high CBD or 1:1 CBD to THC strain might be a better option.
Some popular CBD strains include:
(70% indica, 13.5% CBD, 13.5% THC) (50% indica, 12% CBD, 7% THC) (50% indica, 20% CBD, 0.85%THC)
Once again, no research supports these being the best cannabis strains for Ehlers-Danlos. What works well for one person may be less effective for another, and it is often a matter of trial and error.
For those without access to legal, medical cannabis, high-quality, hemp-derived CBD products may be another option. Look for a brand that provides third-party lab reports and has plenty of positive reviews.
For more on choosing a CBD product, see our article: The Best CBD Products Currently on the Market.
Final Thoughts on Medical Cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
There is currently no research specifically on cannabis for EDS. However, there is evidence that both THC and CBD could help with one of its main symptoms, chronic pain.
Anyone wishing to try cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome should seek advice from a knowledgeable physician to ensure it is suitable for them.