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CBD: Snake Oil For Pain?

A controversial new study has delivered a scathing assessment on the potential of cannabidiol (CBD) for managing pain.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that has been touted as a panacea by some; good for whatever ails you. One of those applications is as a safer alternative to opioid medicines for addressing pain. CBD is big business, with the global market estimated at US $5.14 billion in 2021 – and it will continue to grow.

But does CBD actually work for pain? A group of researchers, three of whom were part of an International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) taskforce on cannabinoids, set about finding out by reviewing sixteen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) focused on pain. These involved pharmaceutical CBD in oral, buccal/sublingual, and topical forms.

Fifteen of the 16 RCTs were negative – there were no greater pain-relieving effects for CBD compared to placebo; which is a treatment that has no active properties. Based on this result, the researchers state:

“For people living with pain, the evidence for CBD or hemp extract shows it is expensive, does not work, and is possibly harmful.”

The authors also call into question the quality of products; which has been an ongoing issue in some jurisdictions – particularly those with weak regulation.

“There is no good reason for thinking that CBD relieves pain, but there are good reasons for doubting the contents of CBD products in terms of CBD content and purity.”

For example, an African study published last year found just 7.5 % of over-the-counter products tested contained CBD levels within 90–110 % of their label claim. Earlier research in the USA determined 46% of products tested contained CBD concentrations at least ± 10% different than what was noted on the label.

The new study also makes mention of meta-analyses linking CBD to increased rates of serious adverse events and hepatotoxicity. With regard to the latter, the study referenced indicated no cases being reported in adults using cannabidiol doses of less than 300 mg/day. That research noted:

“This is important for clinical practice as the vast majority of people using CBD for medical purposes take doses below this threshold.”

The new study, which will no doubt stir up debate regarding its findings, has been published in the Journal of Pain.

Gillian Jalimnson
Gillian Jalimnson is one of Hemp Gazette's staff writers and has been with us since we kicked off in 2015. Gillian sees massive potential for cannabis in areas of health, energy, building and personal care products and is intrigued by the potential for cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative to conventional treatments. You can contact Gillian here.

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