When you look at CBD versus pills – and the serious side-effects of many pharmaceuticals – you may become a CBD convert. Let us start by saying we are not against pharmaceuticals. They have – and continue to – save millions of lives. What we are against is the preclusion of cannabis/CBD as a viable treatment for certain medical conditions and to continuing demonisation of cannabis and hemp.
In the UK, the Government continues to criminalise products that contain trace amounts (<0.3%) of THC. (Ex drugs minister Victoria Atkins was vocal against the legalisation of cannabis and CBD – and shaped UK drug policy. Yet her husband is a managing director of British Sugar – who grow substantial amounts of cannabis under a Home Office licence to sell for medicinal purposes.)
CBD is safe
This would be understandable if CBD was a dangerous substance, but:
- CBD is non-addictive
- You cannot overdose on CBD
- There have never been any deaths associated with taking cannabis or CBD – in the history of the world – ever
- There are no side-effects (or they are very minor, e.g. dry mouth) for the vast majority of people who take CBD
- CBD does not get you high
- CBD is not cannabis. Cannabis is a plant; CBD is just one of over 100 compounds found in that plant
- CBD works naturally with your body via your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a biochemical communication system in the human body, which plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and everyday experience.
Here is a brief overview of cannabis/CBD versus some leading pharmaceuticals in the treatment of certain conditions:
CBD versus Pills #1: Sleep
CBD for better sleep
User who take CBD for sleep report their anxiety levels and negative thoughts were reduced. They were also able to wake without any feelings of grogginess. Most importantly, it is non-addictive. Other side effects? None.
Pharmaceutical option for sleep: Ambien
Ambien (zolpidem) is a sedative, also called a hypnotic. Ambien affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with insomnia).
Side effects and warnings for Ambien/zolpidem
- Addictive. Zolpidem may be habit-forming. Misuse can cause addiction, overdose, or death. Selling or giving away this medicine is against the law.
- Allergic reaction. Ambien may cause a severe allergic reaction. Stop taking this medicine and get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Mental impairment. Ambien may impair your thinking or reactions. You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking this medicine, especially if you take the extended-release tablet, or if you are a woman. Wait at least 4 hours or until you are fully awake before you do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.
- Sleepwalking and failure to recall actions. Some people using Ambien have engaged in activity such as driving, eating, walking, making phone calls, or having sex and later having no memory of the activity. If this happens to you, stop taking this medicine and talk with your doctor about another treatment for your sleep disorder.
- Risks involved. To make sure this medicine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had: depression, mental illness, suicidal thoughts; drug or alcohol addiction; lung disease or breathing problems; sleep apnea (breathing stops during sleep); or; liver or kidney disease.
- Can cause complications during pregnancy. Taking Ambien in the last 3 months of pregnancy may cause drowsiness or breathing problems in your newborn. It may not be safe to breast-feed while using this medicine. Ask your doctor about any risk.
- Short-term use only. Ambien is for short-term use only. Do not take this medicine for longer than 4 or 5 weeks without your doctor’s advice. Do not stop using Ambien suddenly after long-term use, or you could have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
- Insomnia may return. Insomnia symptoms may also return after you stop taking Ambien, and may be even worse than before. Call your doctor if you still have worsened insomnia for the first few nights after you stop taking this medicine.
CBD versus Pills #2: Pain
CBD for pain relief
The research on CBD products and pain management has been promising.
CBD can offer an alternative for people who have chronic pain and rely on medications, such as opioids, that can be habit-forming and cause more side effects. However, more research is needed to verify the pain-relieving benefits of CBD oil and other products.
Some researchers think that CBD interacts with a core component of the endocannabinoid system — endocannabinoid receptors in your brain and immune system.
Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells. They receive signals, mostly chemical ones, from different stimuli and help your cells respond. This response creates anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects that help with pain management. This means that CBD oil and other products may benefit people with chronic pain, such as chronic back pain or arthritis.
One 2018 review assessed how well CBD works to relieve chronic pain. The review looked at studies conducted between 1975 and March 2018. These studies examined various types of pain, including cancer pain, neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia.
Based on these studies, researchers concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management and didn’t cause negative side effects.
Side effects? None.
Pharmaceutical option for Pain: Oxycontin (oxycodone)
OxyContin (oxycodone) is an opioid pain medication sometimes called a narcotic.
OxyContin is a strong prescription medicine used when an opioid medicine is needed to manage severe pain enough to require daily around-the-clock, long-term treatment with an opioid. Oxycontin is often used when other pain treatments have not worked.
OxyContin has been blamed for the opioid crisis in America. (Source: Purdue Pharma: Oxycontin maker faces lawsuits from nearly every US state. California, Maine and Hawaii join at least 45 states accusing company of putting ‘profits over people’ amid opioids crisis.)OxyContin is not to be used on an as-needed basis for pain that is not around-the-clock.
Side effects and warnings for Oxycontin/Oxycodone
- Extremely addictive. Oxycodone is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the country. Many people who abuse oxycodone start out taking a prescribed amount—but as their body develops a tolerance to the drug, they need a higher dose to maintain the same relief or high. The transition from use to abuse to addiction can be a quick and dangerous road. Oxycodone is a powerful drug and offers much-needed relief to many people struggling with painful or terminal conditions; as such, it can be hard to stay in control.
- Dangerous. Misuse of oxycontin can cause addiction, overdose or death.
- Unborn babies can become dependent. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on opioids may need medical treatment for several weeks.
- Do not breast feed. Oxycodone can pass into breast milk and may cause drowsiness, breathing problems, or death in a nursing baby.
CBD versus Pills #3: Nausea
CBD for nausea relief
The non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD interacts with serotonin releasing receptors, and when given in relatively small doses has been shown to help alleviate both nausea and vomiting. CBD can also be effective in easing anxiety, which can help patients manage the discomfort of chronic nausea.
THC also works well for many as an anti-nausea cannabinoid. When THC binds to the CB1 receptors in specific parts of the brain, it acts to reduce vomiting. (The potentially uplifting side effects of THC can also be therapeutic in this case if not too intense. Creating a more positive state of mind is helpful for anyone going through chemotherapy, or for anyone experiencing difficult-to-treat, chronic nausea.
CBD has been shown to reduce feelings of nausea and improve appetite. Side effects? None.
Pharmaceutical option for Nausea: Zofran (ondansetron)
Zofran (ondansetron) blocks the actions of chemicals in the body that can trigger nausea and vomiting. Zofran is used to prevent nausea and vomiting that may be caused by surgery, cancer chemotherapy, or radiation treatment.
Side effects and warnings for Zofran (ondansetron)
- Can cause irregular heart rhythms. According to the drug’s label, reported arrhythmias have included heartbeats that are too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia) or that are too fast and originate from the wrong part of the heart (ventricular and supraventricular tachycardia).
- Serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome — a dangerous condition caused by an excess of serotonin in the body — has also been reported in patients using Zofran. In most cases, the patients were using the drug along with antidepressants or other medications that increase serotonin levels. Some of the reported cases were fatal, according to the drug’s label.
CBD versus Pills #4: Anxiety
CBD for anxiety relief
Cannbidiol (CBD) leaves users in a relaxed but non-euphoric state. It’s thought to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS. These receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, respectively. The exact way CBD affects CB1 receptors in the brain isn’t fully understood. However, it may alter serotonin signals.
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are commonly associated with people who have depression. In some cases, not having enough serotonin may also cause anxiety. The conventional treatment for low serotonin is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac). SSRIs are only available by prescription.
Some people with anxiety may be able to manage their condition with CBD instead of an SSRI. Side effects? None.
Pharmaceutical option for Anxiety: Valium (diazepam)
Valium (diazepam) affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with anxiety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or muscle spasms. Valium is sometimes used with other medications to treat seizures.
Side effects and warnings for Valium (diazepam)
- Addictive. Misuse of valium can cause addiction, overdose or death.
- Not suitable if you have certain pre-existing conditions. You should not use Valium if you are allergic to diazepam or similar medicines (Klonopin, Xanax, and others), or if you have myasthenia gravis, severe liver disease, narrow-angle glaucoma, a severe breathing problem, or sleep apnea.
- Pregnancy complications. When treating seizures, do not start or stop taking Valium during pregnancy without your doctor’s advice. Diazepam may cause harm to an unborn baby, but having a seizure during pregnancy could harm both the mother and the baby. If you take this medicine while you are pregnant, your baby could become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on habit-forming medicine may need medical treatment for several weeks. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
CBD versus Pills #5: Depression
CBD for depression relief
Experts believe that CBD’s potential benefits for depression are related to its positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain.
Low serotonin levels are likely connected to depression. CBD doesn’t necessarily boost serotonin levels, but it may affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s already in your system.
A 2014 animal study found that CBD’s effect on these receptors in the brain produced both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
A more recent 2018 review of existing studies concluded that CBD has anti-stress effects, which may reduce depression related to stress.
When it comes to treating depression, CBD does appear to have some benefits over antidepressant medications.
Most antidepressant medications take weeks to start working. However, a 2019 animal study found that CBD has a fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect.
CBD may also result in fewer side effects than antidepressant medication. Insomnia, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and agitation are common side effects of antidepressants. CBD side effects? None.
Pharmaceutical option for Depression: Prozac (fluoxetine)
Prozac (fluoxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. Fluoxetine affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
Side effects and warnings for Prozac/Fluoxetine
- Suicidal thoughts. Some young people have thoughts about suicide when first taking an antidepressant. Doctors, friends, family and caregivers must be taught to recognise the signs of suicidal behaviour.
- Not suitable during pregnancy. Taking Prozac during pregnancy may cause serious lung problems or other complications in the baby.
- Seizures. Safe doses of Prozac have been linked to seizures.
CBD versus Pills #6: Seizures
CBD for seizures
When it comes to the CBD versus pills debate, there is one area where CBD wins hands down. The most powerful proof of CBD’s anti-convulsant properties is that of 5-year old Charlotte Figi – a girl with a rare form of drug-resistant epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Charlotte suffered a staggering 300 seizures a week, each one lasting up to several hours – each one potentially fatal.
After trying every pharmaceutical treatment available – many that left her catatonic or near death, Charlotte’s parents tried a concentrated, low-THC form of CBD.
After a single treatment, Charlotte’s seizures went from 300 down a week to just one. You can watch the incredible report here. The report is so powerful that it forced science and government to review their position on cannabis, opening the door to research (which is still heavily limited due to restricted access to cannabis for research) and legalisation in a growing number of states.
Sadly, Charlotte died this year at the age of 13 from complications brought about by her condition. The CBD oil Charlotte’s Web was named in her honour. She is credited with bringing the cannabis/CBD discussion back into the limelight and the growing self-medication movement. If it wasn’t for her contribution, CBD would probably still be a little-known medicine to this day.
Pharmaceutical options for Seizures: Diacomit (stiripentol) & Frisium (clobazam)
Diacomit (stiripentol) is a prescription medicine used to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a rare chronic form of epilepsy that begins in the first year of life and causes frequent or prolonged seizures.
Diacomit is used along with clobazam for use in adults and children at least 2 years old. Clobazam (frisium) is a benzodiazepine that is used in combination with other medications to treat seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy that also causes developmental and behavior problems.
Side effects and warnings for Diacomit and Clobazam
- Clobazam may be habit-forming. Misuse can cause addiction, overdose, or death.
- Suicidal thoughts. Some people have thoughts about suicide while taking Diacomit or clobazam.
- Clobazam may harm an unborn baby, or cause problems in a newborn. Your baby could also become dependent on the drug. This can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the baby after it is born. Babies born dependent on habit-forming medicine may need medical treatment for several weeks.
CBD helps your body heal itself
In the debate of CBD versus pills discussion, it’s important to remember that CBD is not “doing” anything. It’s not the CBD that’s bringing about incredible health benefits. It’s your own endocannabinoid system – which uses CBD – that deserves the credit. CBD helps your body help itself.
CBD is an area that’s still being actively studied, and new research and reviews are published every year. There are already hundreds of studies (ProjectCBD and Pubmed.gov) confirming the potential of CBD. As researchers begin to better understand CBD and its potential benefits or concerns, information about how to most effectively use the product will continue to change.