Marijuana may be making a lot of noise this year because of its alleged medicinal properties, but it’s not enough to make the Drug Enforcement Administration remove it from the schedule I category of controlled substances. The administrative hurdles and strict regulations associated with the status make it extra hard for scientists and researchers to unravel the therapeutic possibilities of marijuana.
The problem is, the government is only seeing the effects of 9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, a chemical in marijuana responsible for the high that recreational pot smokers experience. This is pretty bad news, considering that cannabis contains over 500 chemicals and 100 cannabinoids that still need to be studied extensively.
Fortunately, there is one other cannabinoid that is slowly gaining ground because of its perceived medicinal properties: cannabidiol or CBD. It is often cited as one of the main reasons why restrictions on the use of marijuana should be loosened.
How CBD Works
Most cannabinoids like THC target the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain and is essential for a myriad of functions like learning, coordination, brain development, pain, and sleep. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, can be found in the immune system.
In the case of CBD, it has little effect on these CB1 and CB2 receptors. That’s the reason why it doesn’t make people high like THC does. Instead, CBD is involved in many signaling systems, including a serotonin receptor. It can even blunt some of THC’s effects, although its exact mechanism of action remains unknown.
Treating Diseases with CBD
Thanks to anecdotes of epileptic children finding a cure in CBD oils and extracts, CBD has become a household name in the discussion of medical marijuana. As early as the 1970s, there have been animal studies examining the anti-seizure properties of CBD. There were also a few randomized clinical trials showing the positive effects of CBD on adults suffering from epilepsy. Preliminary data suggests that CBD appears to be safe and without any addictive effects.
At present, several drug companies are developing CBD-based medications. One of these promising medications is Epidiolex, manufactured by British company GW Pharmaceuticals. It has already been given to more than 400 children under the FDA’s expanded access program.
More studies are being done to explore CBD. The National Institutes of Health is funding work on the potential of CBD and other cannabinoids to treat neurological, psychiatric, and immune disorders, including cancer. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is also exploring how CBD can be used in the treatment of substance abuse.
But until the barriers that slow down clinical research on CBD are addressed, expect studies on medical marijuana to be slow and sporadic.
How can the government expedite CBD research? Voice your opinions in the comments section below – your opinion matters to the nation.