CBD or Cannabidiol is the common term used to describe one of the primary cannabinoids found in marijuana. While only recently popular and only recently available, CBD has a history dating back over 50 years. Today, it’s lauded for a range of medical uses, despite only recently being approved for clinical studies. Individuals considering either using CBD or who are already taking the drug should have a good understanding of what CBD is, where it comes from, and its clinical history before making a decision.
CBD is a marijuana product and it is a drug. Cannabidiol interacts with cannabidiol receptors and other neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, causing relaxation, reducing the likelihood of seizures, and potentially working to treat long-term mood disorders relating to neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. With a low potential for abuse, CBD is generally regarded as safe, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about the drug.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the 113 identified cannabidiols found in marijuana, and with average strains of marijuana reaching about 1% CBD (vs up to 20% THC), one of the most common. Modern strains of CBD producing plants can reach as high as 40% CBD in extracts, allowing for CBD products with as little as 0.1-0.3% THC.
Cannabidiol naturally occurs in marijuana, but lacks the psychoactive component of THC. Some studies also suggest that very high doses of CBD may combat the intoxicating effects of THC. With other effects, including clinical studies showing CBD is effective in treating epilepsy symptoms in children, especially those with Dravet Syndrome and Lenox Gavett Syndrome has led to the first FDA-approved medication including CBD, Epidiolex.
A History of CBD in Academia
CBD was first isolated from the cannabis plant in 1940 by Roger Adams and his team. The team published a research paper the same year, defining the chemical structure, its isolation, and methods of isolation. In 1946, Doctor Siegfried Walter Loewe conducted tests on lab animals, showing that Roger Adam’s isolated cannabis chemical was not a hallucinogenic. By 1963, a team of researchers defined the substances complete chemical structure during an experiment to isolate and synthesize active components of the drug, Hashish. During the period, CBD was studied in terms of its effects, potential medical use, and structure and behavior. Further research, including by Roger Adams, Mechoulam, Loewe, and others defined CBD as a non-mind-altering drug, disassociating it with THC. Further research linked CBD to various effects such as relaxation, induced sleepiness, and reduced inflammation. During this period, several of the involved researchers also conclusively proved that cannabidiol receptors do indeed exist in the brain.
By 1970, the United States passed the Controlled Substances Act, effectively making marijuana possession illegal for any purpose, including medical and study. This effectively halted progress on studying and understanding CBD and its effects in most of the United States.
While some CBD studies continued, primarily in states with separate medical and academic cannabis regulations. These were primarily instituted between 1978 and 1988, but constituted just 7 states who closely controlled the programs. By 1996, California passed the Compassionate Use Act, becoming one of the first states to allow medical use without strict state management. However, it wasn’t until 2000 that a state, Hawaii, legalized medical usage of cannabis through state legislation.
Today, cannabis is legal for medical use in 33 states, meaning that anyone in those states can legally study the effects of marijuana or its constituents, such as CBD.
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Has CBD Been Used at Other Times Throughout History?
Components of cannabis, including oil extracts have certainly been used for most of recorded history. However, we have no recorded use of extracted CBD until 1940. This means that any previous claims of CBD usage are likely untrue. However, it doesn’t mean that CBD hasn’t been used, it just hasn’t been used in its “pure” (most CBD contains 0.1-0.3% THC) form. Instead, cannabis extracts and oils are used with a dose of THC and other cannabidiols included.
What Do We Know About CBD?
CBD is widely popular and increasingly so. But, as more and more studies come out touting CBD’s usefulness for a range of health issues, many experts urge caution. There is strong scientific evidence that CBD is useful in treating epilepsy syndromes, reducing or even stopping seizures. CBD has also been claimed for numerous other health-effects such as:
- Decreasing or addressing anxiety
- Treating insomnia
- Treating chronic pain
- Reducing pain and inflammation
- Treating addiction
- Treating depression
- Reducing psychotic behavior
Unfortunately, despite these massive claims, few studies exist to actually validate them. While some studies do exist, some are actually conflicting, such as in the case of CBD reducing the effects of THC (some studies show it to exacerbate problems), and in reducing issues with anxiety (CBD and THC are shown to exacerbate issues with anxiety and paranoia). However, with less than a few decades of real research conducted on a national scale, most studies are still too small and not comprehensive enough to provide a common consensus on whether CBD does or does not impact health in the way proponents claim.
Treating Addiction – CBD is very commonly touted as an addiction treatment, despite no real studies existing in evidence of this fact. In fact, one study that reported marijuana use reduction with CBD was later shown to have just one patient. Others are primarily performed on rats and mice. And, most that have been performed on humans include a small number of test subjects, with the current maximum (this may change at any time) including just 24 patients. This is important for anyone considering using CBD to reduce drug use, as there are no real clinical trials with large study groups and controls and those that do exist are not typically human trials.
The current scientific consensus is that while CBD holds potential, we mostly haven’t studied it enough to warrant its popularity or to rationalize its use in treating complex disorders such as anxiety, depression, or addiction.
Side Effects of CBD
While cannabidiol is largely shared as being completely safe, the drug does have various side effects. Long-term users typically experience chronic nausea, fatigue, and irritability. Individuals taking CBD through a marijuana plant also receive high levels of THC, which can impact health in other ways. CBD is also known to impact other medications, such as coumadin and anti-depressants such as serotonin-reuptake inhibitors in the same way as documented in grapefruit.
Today, CBD is regarded as a supplement in the United States and typically sold as such. This means that it is not FDA regulated and there are no standards for purity, additives, or even controls in place to ensure a certain level of active ingredients. However, with no real data on what an effective or safe dose of CBD would or should be, the FDA has no real way to regulate this, even if CBD were to be classified as a medication.
If you or a loved one is considering taking CBD for any reason, it’s important to consult your doctor and to discuss your options. In most cases, there is very little ancillary evidence to support medical claims and you will likely be better off seeking a prescription from your doctor. If you are looking for CBD to treat addiction, a rehabilitation facility, with therapy, counseling, and behavioral therapy will be significantly more effective in treating long-term addiction, reducing cravings, and working to undo behavior patterns surrounding drug use in the first place.
CBD shows a lot of potential, but it’s also something we don’t understand very well. It’s important to exercise caution, discuss your options with a medical professional, and continue to take any medication you need to treat problems or ailments.
If you or your loved one needs help with drug or alcohol abuse, please contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and speak with one of our experienced treatment advisors today in complete confidence.