A daily dose (or 2): Curious minds turn to CBD to treat range of ailments

With cannabis now legal in Canada, curious minds are seeking out marijuana-based treatments, like CBD — a compound of cannabis — for treating ongoing medical conditions, with some people even using it to wean themselves off prescription medications.

A recent U.S. study by a cannabis marketing and research firm for a medical hub, collected data from 2,400 CBD users. The study found 42 per cent of people stopped taking their traditional medications after using CBD, and now take it to treat insomnia, depression, anxiety, and joint pain.

Former B.C. Health minister Terry Lake says CBD helped him get off years of on-again, off-again sleep medication.

Lake takes CBD orally — with two sprays every morning under the tongue and two more at night. The treatment is working, he said.

"I no longer have the need to use prescription sleeping medication."

CBD or Cannabidiol has low or no THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis,  so it won't get you high, which is why research has shifted so heavily toward adopting it for therapeutic uses.

CBD products on the BC government cannabis sales website are often available only in limited quantities, and others at times, sold out — suggesting a growing interest in their potential benefits. (BC Cannabis Stores)

Concerns about side effects

Rielle Capler, a postdoctoral research fellow with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use said people are making the switch because they are concerned about the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.

"They are looking at, and experimenting with CBD and other forms of cannabis," she said. "It's something that we are seeing a lot of patients using it for … and many are finding it very effective." 

CBD won't get you high because it has low or no THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Lake moved from politics to the marijuana industry in August 2017, saying at the time he was optimistic cannabis could be used to substitute other types of medications.

 And while he has a vested interest in the industry's success, he says CBD sales are through the roof.

"We can't make it fast enough" he said.

The World Health Organization made headlines with its March, 2018 report that said CBD posed no health risks and in fact showed 'preliminary evidence' that it could be useful in treating Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and cancer, among other serious conditions.

Despite the positive headlines, many experts caution that more research is needed to fully understand possible side effects

"We are just beginning to learn about the potential benefits of CBD … but right now there is still a gap in research evidence," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer of B.C. 

Henry said people who are trying it for the first time should go slow and tell thier doctor, because CBD can interact with other medications.

Customer demand

In B.C., CBD is sold online through BCCannabisstores.com and at a government-run retail store in Kamloops

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch, which distributes non-medical cannabis for the province, won't reveal sales figures, but CBD products on its website are often available in limited quantities, or sold out — suggesting a growing interest in their potential benefits.

In a statement, the agency said it regularly replenishes its stock and "is continuing to add new products to its assortment in order to cater to customer demand."  

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