According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. Chronic pain can increase healthcare costs, negatively impact productivity at work, as well as drastically reduce the overall quality of life.
Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications are often recommended in the treatment of chronic pain, but many people seek out alternative forms of relief. Some of these people wish to avoid the side effects frequently associated with standard pain medication. Others have apprehensions about becoming dependent on such medications. As concerns over opioid overdoses continue to escalate, some proponents suggest that CBD oil could provide a solution to opioid addiction.
Scientists are still trying to determine how CBD oil might alleviate pain. There is some evidence that cannabidiol may affect the body’s complex system of cell-to-cell communication called the endocannabinoid system. Along with contributing to brain functions like memory and mood, the endocannabinoid system influences how we experience pain.
So far, much of the evidence for CBD’s effects on pain management comes from animal-based research. This research includes a study published in the journal Pain in 2017, in which scientists observed that treatment with topical CBD helped thwart the development of joint pain in rats with osteoarthritis.
In a report published in Pediatric Dermatology in 2018, scientists reported three cases of topical CBD, applied as CBD oil, CBD cream, and CBD spray, on children with a rare, blistering skin condition known as epidermolysis bullosa. Applied by their parents, all three people reported faster wound healing, less blisters, and improvement of pain. One person was able to completely wean off oral opioid analgesic pain medication. There were no adverse effects reported.
While very few clinical trials have explored the pain-relieving effects of CBD oil, a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2018 examined the use of a variety of cannabis-based medicines and found they might be of some benefit in the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain often occurs in people with conditions like diabetes and multiple sclerosis. In this report, researchers reviewed 16 previously published studies testing the use of various cannabis-based medicines in the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain and found some evidence that cannabis-based medicines may help with pain relief and reduce pain intensity, sleep difficulties, and psychological distress. Side effects included sleepiness, dizziness, and mental confusion. The authors concluded that the potential harm of such medicines may outweigh their possible benefit, however, it should be noted that the studies used a variety of cannabis-based medicines (e.g. inhaled cannabis and sprays and oral tablets containing THC and/or CBD from plant sources or made synthetically), some of which are more likely to result in these side effects than products without THC.
The research on the side effects of CBD oil is limited. Due to the lack of regulation of many products, there is inconsistency in the content and purity.
Topical CBD application may cause skin irritation.
As more and more states across the U.S. legalize the use of marijuana, CBD oil has become more widely available. CBD oil is now sold in a range of forms, including capsules, creams, tinctures, and under-the-tongue sprays.