Neuropathic pain and the potential of CBD:
The endocannabinoid system looks to have influence in all regions of the body and is therefore worth exploring as a potential treatment avenue for any kind of illness. With a growing number of anecdotal reports of people using CBD to medicate neuropathic pain, let’s take a closer look at the condition and how the non-psychoactive cannabinoid may help.
Understanding neuropathic pain
This condition occurs when the body’s sensory system becomes disrupted, either through disease or injury. When neuropathic pain strikes, nerves in the sensory system cannot send sensations to the brain. This works one of two ways: either the person suffering experiences an absence of sensations and a numbness in the body, or the affected areas start to cause crippling pain.
Neuropathic pain can be set off from any disruption to the body’s sensory nervous system, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. However, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, shingles and vitamin deficiencies have all been identified as potential root causes of neuropathic pain. Drug intake, alcohol abuse, infections and various cancers are also connected with the condition.
Neuropathic pain is a tricky condition to solve – it emerges over time and there is no simple remedy. For many, neuropathic pain is a long-term menace that causes enduring problems – sometimes the pain is very intense, while at other times it is more manageable.
There are a few ways that somebody can become afflicted with neuropathic pain. Brain and spinal cord injuries are known causes, while issues with the peripheral nervous system have also been linked.
Neuropathic pain is often akin to that experienced after suffering from an acute injury. We all know what it’s like to stub a toe or hurt a finger – it’s incredibly painful, but at least the intensity subsides soon enough. Unfortunately, for those with neuropathic pain, this nociceptive pain can be much more persistent.
It is thought that neuropathic pain occurs when the body releases more neurotransmitters responsible for signalling pain than the nerves are able to regulate – bear in mind, these nerves are already prevented from operating at full capacity. This breakdown leads to pain in the affected part of the body. Strokes and traumas have been found to damage the brain in such a way that it is unable to block pain signals, leading to increased discomfort. Furthermore, complications in the spinal cord, a region tasked with influencing pain signals, can lead to the sensation of pain, even when there isn’t an external cause.
Using medical cannabis to treat neuropathic pain
Most of the research conducted on cannabis and neuropathic pain has involved the entire plant, with both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being used.
A recent study featured in Neurotherapeutics determined that cannabinoid therapy was effective for patients with neuropathic pain, citing clinical studies. Cannabinoids have also been found to reduce inflammation and neuropathic pain by working with alpha-3 glycine receptors.
In the United Kingdom and several other countries, Sativex, a drug made by GW Pharmaceuticals that contains both THC and CBD, is occasionally prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis.
Studies into the effectiveness of CBD as a solo treatment are less clear. It is believed that CBD may help to regulate pain, although how it does so scientists are not quite sure. In contrast, we know that the interactions THC makes with the endocannabinoid system helps to reduce pain perception.
However, recent studies have shown that CBD may indirectly work on a G-protein coupled receptor called TRPV-1, or the vanilloid receptor. This receptor regulates pain sensation and can be activated via the endocannabinoid anandamide. With CBD known to inhibit the FAAH enzyme in order to boost anandamide, perhaps this is the mechanism that CBD functions in to reduce pain.
Anandamide is a lipid-based neurotransmitter that has been likened to THC and is often referred to as the “bliss molecule” in cannabis circles. Some people are thought to suffer from Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, which prevents anandamide from being produced in the required amounts to ensure optimal conditions in the endocannabinoid system.
Moreover, CBD can calm down many issues which are caused by pain, such as inflammation. CBD has such a remarkable effect by the body’s immune system response thanks to its ability to link up with CB2 receptors, which has a direct connection to the immune system. Helping to keep the endocannabinoid system regulated with consistent CBD dosing may help to reduce the likelihood of neuropathic pain.
How to manage pain with CBD
There are a few ways to control pain through the usage of CBD products. With neuropathic pain often being very intense and sudden, patients are best suited to an intake method which allows for the speedy absorption of cannabinoids into the bloodstream and endocannabinoid system. Vaping either a CBD e-liquid or potent concentrate, depending on the extent of the pain, can help to administer relief within minutes.
For those with pain that is not so intense but constantly gnawing away, CBD edibles could produce better results – the cannabinoids don’t enter the bloodstream as quickly, but the benefits are felt for longer.
While there is still a lot for researchers to learn in the subject of medical cannabis, CBD and neuropathic pain, the signs are very encouraging.
And it should be remembered that CBD is a safe substance to try out for various conditions. The announcement from the World Health Organization in late 2017 that CBD has no abuse potential should give a lot of potential users, especially those who are nervous about medicating with CBD products because of their connection to cannabis, peace of mind.
Indeed, with mainstream science yet to fully get on-board with CBD and cannabis in general, it is the stories of people who have chosen to self-medicate that are carrying the argument forward.
NB: The contents of this article are meant for informational and educational purposes only. This piece should not be considered a substitute for medical advice, and if you are suffering from neuropathic pain and taking medication, consult a doctor knowledgeable in medical cannabis to see if CBD is right for you.