CBD Oil: Why Cancer Patients Are Seeking Natural Pain Relief

By David Haas

For patients dealing with complex rare cancers, treatments are often invasive and require exhaustive rounds of chemotherapy. With the patient’s body fighting to destroy cancer cells, they may be left feeling weak, with intense pain radiating throughout their body. As a remedy, doctors will prescribe opioids such as Oxycontin or Vicodin to help relieve the pain that occurs due to their treatment regimen.

However, opioids can be highly addictive, and this may cause the patient to become reliant on these painkillers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to American patients. While these prescriptions are not all filled by cancer patients, the potential risk of patients becoming addicted and overdosing is far too high.

Fortunately, natural alternative forms of relief are becoming more widely accepted amongst the medical community. As more research is conducted on natural pain relievers such as those found in Cannabis sativa, hopefully we will see a decline in the rate of opioid prescriptions and addictions.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol, otherwise referred to as CBD, is one of the many cannabinoids that can be found in the hemp plant. Most closely associated with its sibling tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD’s main difference is that it is non-psychoactive. This means that it provides the same benefits as medical marijuana, but will not cause the hallucinogenic effects brought on by THC, making it ideal for patients solely seeking relief.

CBD can be consumed in many different ways, here are some of the most common:

  • CBD Oil
  • CBD edibles
  • CBD-infused water
  • CBD capsules
  • CBD dissolvable powder

CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system contains cannabinoid receptors that interact with CBD, allowing for pain relief. Unlike opioids, CBD does not promote the production of dopamine, a compound in our body that triggers our reward system and enables feelings of pleasure, which can lead to overload and addiction. Instead, CBD targets our CB1 and CB2 receptors and actually slows down other compounds in our body from being absorbed. One of these compounds is anandamide, and its prolonged absorption allows for pain relief.

How Does This Benefit Cancer Patients?

It’s no secret that cancer patients undergo intensive treatments that often leave them in serious pain. The highly addictive nature of opioids has become frightening for patients, as the last thing they want is to battle a dependency while having to deal with cancer. This also holds true for patients who may have limited treatment options. For patients suffering from rare cancers such as mesothelioma, the cancer may be terminal. This creates a shift in focus to the patient’s comfort and palliative care. Using a non-addictive alternative such as CBD can help put a patient’s mind at ease, as they can receive pain relief without the fear of becoming dependent.

CBD usage also does not result in the need for an increased dosage as time goes on. Tolerance to CBD typically does not occur, which means you should be able to consume a consistent dosage without having to take more in order to feel its effects. This is a huge benefit, as opioids fuel dopamine production, which is what targets your neurotransmitters and makes your body want more. This causes patients to take a higher milligram dosage, or more than the recommended amount, increasing the chances of a potential overdose.

The Current Legality of CBD 

For quite some time now the legality of medical cannabis has been a hot topic amongst state and federal levels of government. While marijuana and uses of THC continue to be regulated, and in some states legalized recreationally, CBD has been given the green light for usage throughout all 50 states, as long as the product containing CBD does not contain THC as well. Also, CBD can be given as a prescription in 46 of the 50 states, making it a widely available option for those who wish to try it.

Understanding CBD Before Usage

While CBD has been generally considered safe, you should always consult your doctor before using any new substance, especially if you are currently taking a medication that may interact with CBD. CBD reacts differently for everyone, and for those who may have a negative experience may feel side effects of nausea, anxiety, dry mouth, and dizziness.

CBD's legality across the U.S. means that less authentic products are now diluting the market, as with any commodity in high demand. Some companies sell products that contain little to no CBD, so it is important that you are getting a pure extract from a supplier that grows their own hemp and manufactures it in-house. This will likely not be an issue for those receiving a prescription for CBD, but if you are purchasing it without a doctor's recommendation, do some digging on who you decide to purchase from.

Trustworthy suppliers usually advertise that their hemp is naturally cultivated. This is what you want, as hemp that is grown with certain chemicals can be dangerous. Hemp has the ability to absorb toxins and other substances from the soil with ease, so to ensure your CBD does not pose any dangers, only trust suppliers who are heavily reviewed and have done research to back up any of their claims.

The Future of Medicine

With skepticism around cannabis becoming a thing of the past, we will hopefully see more natural pain relief alternatives enter the marketplace. For now, more research needs to be conducted to understand definitive benefits of CBD and how it can be applied to not only pain relief, but perhaps curing diseases. Patients who are suffering from pain should explore their options for relief, and not feel pressured to use opioids as a means to have symptoms dissipate.

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