“Cannabis has been used for medical purposes across the world for centuries. As states and countries implement medical and recreational cannabis policies, increasing numbers of people are using cannabis pharmacotherapy for pain.” (1)
In 2017 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released one of the most comprehensive studies of research on the health effects of recreational and therapeutic cannabis use - The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.
According to the report there was evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids can be an effective treatment for chronic pain. The report added that treatment for pain is "by far the most common" reason people ask for medical marijuana.
But importantly too, the report showed how much more there is to learn about cannabis use and health.
Unless produced under licence, in the UK cannabis is illegal. It’s a class B controlled substance and under UK law cannabis does not have any therapeutic value. CBD, as long as it conforms to government regulations on accepted THC levels, is legal.
Since 2010 medical marijuana has been available in the UK under strict medical licence - the drug Sativex was developed to help Multiple Sclerosis sufferers with pain and muscle spasms. But following a decision by NICE (National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence) who said the cost didn’t justify the benefits, Sativex is no longer available on the NHS.
But critics argued that part of Sativex’s final price (around £375 for 270 doses) were the costs involved in getting a medical licence. It’s considered that to get a medical licence in the UK involves jumping through hoops.
Nabilone is another cannabinoid-based drug that is used to help with sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. And according to the NHS website “trials are under way to test cannabis-based drugs for other conditions including cancer pain, the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, and epilepsy in children.”
In 2017 GW Pharmaceuticals, a company that specialises in the creation of products from its cannabinoids products, announced their Epidiolex product had passed the stage 3 trials in treating childhood epilepsy.
And there are countless more global studies each year...
Into the Cannabis Arena – CBD Use
CBD has become popular with people suffering from various health issues including:
- Chronic pain and inflammation
- Sleep disorders and insomnia
- Anxiety, stress, and depression
- Skin conditions
- Low appetite and poor metabolic function
- Weaker immune system
- Chronic diseases and cancer
Studies on Cannabis and CBD
A 2012 study on rodents found that “systemic and intrathecal administration of cannabidiol (CBD), a major nonpsychoactive component of marijuana, and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance...”(3).
So in more simple terms the study found that inflammation and pain were reduced with CBD use in rodents.
A study in 2007 by M Iskedjian also found that Cannabinoids including the cannabidiol/THC buccal spray are effective in treating neuropathic pain in MS.
There have also been numerous studies “suggesting that cannabidiol may have utility in treating a number of human diseases and disorders now known to involve activation of the immune system and associated oxidative stress, as a contributor to their etiology and progression. These include rheumatoid arthritis, types 1 and 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer disease, hypertension, the metabolic syndrome, ischemia-reperfusion injury, depression, and neuropathic pain.” (3)
Again in more simple terms the studies had found that where the stresses on the immune system helped prgress certain diseases, such as arthritis or alzheimer's, CBD was found to have a place in treating this.
CBD and Cannabis - A Legal Viewpoint
Medical Marijuana is now legal in 29 states in the US and the American public is behind it too. Around 84% of them believe it should be legalised for medical use. Still controversial however is the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use.
In the UK cannabis is illegal, without a licence.
A study on non-medical cannabis by the World Health Organisation noted: “The daily use of cannabis over years and decades appears to produce persistent impairments in memory and cognition, especially when cannabis use begins in adolescence (Meier et al., 2012; Volkow et al., 2014a).” (4)
Despite growing legalisation for medical marijuana across the US, the Federal Drugs agency won’t yet approved medical marijuana because there hasn’t been enough studies. Furthermore the Drugs Enforcement Agency still have marijuana as a schedule I drug, in the same class as heroin, so any research is strictly under licence.
Finally... CBD and Cannabis Oil – They’re Not the Same
Hemp is a plant from the Cannabus family bred without the psychoactive THC element.
CBD is created from hemp and is legal in the UK provided it doesn’t contain any substance (for example another Cannabinoid, such as THC) that is regulated under the misuse of drugs act. It is required to contain less than 0.2% THC.
Cannabis Oil is extracted from the cannabis plant (not hemp) and is illegal to own, use or supply.
(1) Cannabis and Pain a Clinical Review, Hill
(2) Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors, Xiong W
(3) Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress, GW Booz
(4) World Health Organisation – The Health and Social Effects of Non-Medical Cannabis Use