Although CBD stigmatization of the early 2000s has subsided, CBD research is still combating a slew of hurdles. Most scientific evidence is based on animal models and, therefore, not necessarily translatable in humans.
Existing CBD Research: Epilepsy, PTSD, and Other Mental Disorders
Early research focused on exploring the cannabis’ plant’s rich and diverse cannabinoid profile yielded us two of today’s most talked-about compounds — THC and CBD. Researchers found CBD, in particular, to have promising medicinal potential. CBD didn’t possess any of THC’s psychoactive properties linked to the aggravation of certain mental disorders, which gave it an edge over its competitor.
After CBD’s discovery, researchers targeted their wits at the CBD-epilepsy connection. However, it didn’t produce any favorable outcomes initially. CBD’s fortunes only changed when studies suggested that CBD interacts with receptors in our natural endocannabinoid system. This realization proved to be a springboard for a myriad of future CBD studies.
Today, scientific minds use CBD in clinical trials to treat various mental disorders, such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Some sources have also indicated that CBD may help with chronic pain management.
In 2018, the FDA also approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug, to treat two severe epileptic disorders in children — Dravet Syndrome and Lennox Gastaut Syndrome. These disorders previously had no reliable treatment, so Epidiolex’s approval was touted as a major breakthrough.
While the research to test CBD’s potential medicinal value is ongoing, concrete evidence is scarce. No long-term clinical trials exist as of now.
Here’s what kind of research is in full swing:
Ongoing CBD Research: ALS, MS, and More
Many studies targeted the transformation of CBD into a commercial drug. Big pharmaceutical companies have a hand to play in this. Here’s what we know:
- CBD for muscle spasticity: GW pharmaceuticals patented a new CBD-based drug, Sativex, to test it as a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) linked muscle spasticity. MS causes inflammation in nerves in or around the leg area, causing stiffness and numbness, which leads to acute muscle spasms. Early research suggests that CBD can help reduce inflammation and even play a role in overturning long-term nerve damage. Sativex could be coupled with physical therapy and other conventional medication to provide a “holistic” treatment for MS patients. Sativex is an oral spray that can be conveniently applied to the muscles. However, the drug is still nowhere near the final stages of testing. This means that MS patients might still have a long wait ahead of them.
- CBD for ALS: ALS attacks the victim’s spinal nerves, causing rapid degeneration. CannTrust, in collaboration with academic research centers, has funded research to understand the effects of CBD on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The research will try to find out whether CBD can help slow down the progression of ALS or not.
- CBD and Fentanyl: Santé Cannabis, a small but dedicated cannabis research institution, is joining hands with Tetra-Bio Pharma Inc. to investigate the similarities and differences between CBD and fentanyl oil. Fentanyl is an opiate used to treat acute pain. Some studies have indicated that Fentanyl is 50% more effective at curbing pain than Morphine. However, it’s also extremely addictive and can result in substance abuse complications. The scope of this study is to find whether CBD can provide the same pain-relieving benefits of Fentanyl, without causing any adverse effects.
Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trials For Conclusive Evidence
Double-blind, placebo-controlled placebo trials spell an exciting time for CBD research. Past research was mostly aimed at rodent studies, the scope of which was limited to either small-scale experimentation or open-label human trials.
In open-label trials, the use of the experimental drug has not kept a mystery. Therefore, the outcome often has an element of bias known as the placebo effect, which produces questionable scientific data. The placebo effect has been a major impediment in CBD science progression, also calling into question its already overwhelming body of preclinical evidence.
The main purpose of a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment is to limit the placebo effect. In this kind of research, the drug’s identity is not unveiled until conclusive results are obtained.
After shifting attention towards these kinds of trials, the scientific community might be more inclined to believe in CBD science’s authenticity.
As of 2020, many double-blind placebo-controlled CBD studies have surfaced:
- CBD for TMD: Polish researchers showed that CBD could relieve pain in jaw muscles. They administered topical CBD creams to participants of the study twice a day. Aside from significantly reducing localized pain, the participants also experienced no opiate-related side effects with topical CBD use.
- CBD for Peripheral Nerve Damage: A 2019 study also demonstrated how CBD’s topical application could play a part in chronic pain management. CBD was shown to be extremely helpful with a specific kind of pain — peripheral nerve damage. Peripheral nerve damage results when an injury to critical nerves sends pain signs to the central nervous system. Upon applying CBD to the affected area, patients felt a marked reduction in painful sensations. Moreover, they didn’t experience any immediate side effects, which was also quite promising.
- CBD for Anxiety: A study published in 2019 revealed that CBD treated social anxiety disorder (SAD) in teenagers between 12 and 17. Patients who took controlled doses of CBD daily felt much better in social settings than those who took the placebo.
Why is Extensive CBD Research Need of the Hour?
Right now, there’s not much certainty and positivity surrounding CBD research. Therefore, we can’t say for sure that CBD’s widespread commercial importance will be accepted in the future. However, the research we do have, no matter how inconclusive, is promising. Moreover, the FDA greenlit a CBD-based drug to treat epilepsy means that more intensive CBD research might pay dividends.
As far as anecdotal evidence is concerned, CBD is already a “cure-all” drug. Many users have claimed to have treated various conditions, from arthritis to Alzheimer’s, with CBD. Research, however, is still ongoing. Only the future will tell whether these claims are true or not. For now, it would be in your best interest to consult your physician to incorporate CBD in your medication regimen safely.