Science vs Empirical Evidence: The case of Cannabidiol
Science used to be key for humanity because it would base its conclusions on reason and evidence. However, for a while now, science has departed its very foundation; empirical evidence, to find conclusions that are unscientific, to say the least.
Over the past few decades, as the pharmaceutical industry took over the business of telling people what was healthy and what was not, and after government agencies took their word at face value and accepted it as science, empirical evidence has been absent from scientific discoveries.
Scientific conclusions in all walks of life are based on policy, not observation and scientific interpretation of data. The results of observing are not evidence-based. From climate change to vaccinations, science is now steered to fit in the image of stakeholders, not of science or health.
A case in point is that of cannabidiol. Numerous press reports still equal cannabidiol to pot. Most of those reports do not even make a difference between marijuana and hemp.
Very few news articles explain the difference between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance responsible for making people high and cannabidiol (CBD).
Medicine and Business Opportunity
Today, cannabidiol is used for treating many health inconveniences. From Crohn’s disease to chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Often, all it takes is a drop or two on the patient’s tongue to see the results.
People who suffer from epilepsy attacks also use CBD when convulsions start. The effect is almost immediate. Cannabidiol cuts down the severity and duration of the attack.
The legalization or decriminalization of marijuana in many countries opened the window for patients to take advantage of the positive health effects of CBD.
Most people buy CBD as a super concentrated oil and keep it in their medicine cabinet as their go-to solution for common illnesses that Big Pharma has not been willing to help cure.
Twenty-five years after the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use, the empirical evidence already surpasses scientific speculations about the ‘dangers’ of CBD. Hemp is legal in many countries and the CBD obtained from it, too.
Now, cannabidiol obtained from marijuana is the one in the eye of the hurricane. This second type of CBD does not have the approval enjoyed by its cousin originated from hemp.
Cannabidiol extracted from marijuana is only legal in more than half of the states of the United States, and its use for medical purposes is limited by a list of regulations.
The reason why this type of CBD is still regulated is that it has higher levels of THC than that obtained from hemp. What is not mentioned in news reports is that CBD from marijuana can also be ridden for THC for safe medical use.
To add more complexity to the issue, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not yet recognized hemp as legal and classifies it on the same list of addictive substances such as heroin and methamphetamine.
The situation does not follow the line of popular feeling. According to data provided by the Pew Research Center, citizen support for the legalization of marijuana nationwide has escalated from 12% to 62% since 1969, and 9 out of 10 voters support medical use.
According to the latest figures from Forbes magazine, the growth of the CBD market is expected to reach 1.8 billion euros by 2020, which is a growth of 700%.
Online stores are counted by the hundreds. Telemarketing offers a special package for Valentine’s Day.
Science is what is missing in the discussion
Cannabis plants have more than 100 active components (cannabinoids). The most important is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The second most important compound is CBD, which, unlike THC, does not cause addiction.
The issue of marijuana being a source of medical solutions has never been included at the center of the debate. It has always been a political issue, racism and other conflicts of interest, even though the medical use of marijuana does not pose a danger for patients.
The most common way to consume CBD is in the form of an oil, as a supplement. It is usually sold in a dropper that makes it easy to put a few drops on the tongue, a couple of times a day. That is equivalent to between 10 and 20 milligrams, although this may vary depending on the manufacturer.
Cannabidiol is already a household name
Indeed, CBD derived from hemp can be found in any store and form imaginable: elixir, beauty product, gum, shampoo, face cream, tonic, intimate lubricant, lipstick and so on.
Walking through an American pharmacy or supermarket without knowing the popularity of CBD derived from hemp can make anyone wonder if one has unknowingly been transported to Europe.
CBD already occupies a place of honor in any American pantry. Right next to the vitamins, between the cereal package and the powdered whey protein.
The future and science will tell if it is a passing fad or if it will truly revolutionize the way we can handle pain naturally.
The growing popularity of CBD has made scientists eager to opine about it. First, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in December 2017 that “in its pure state”, cannabidiol does not appear to be harmful, although it does not recommend its medical use either.
According to the organization, the first data obtained reveal that it could have some therapeutic value in epileptic seizures and related diseases.
What about a more palliative use?
At the University of Minnesota, three researchers studied the analgesic effects of CBD in the management of severe chronic pain and found that cannabinoids can form a useful adjunct to current analgesic drugs in many conditions, especially at low doses unable to induce hyperalgesia or other side effects.
It can also be used as an alternative when opioid analgesia is ineffective or inadequate, or as an opioid-sparing agent. The combination of opioids and cannabinoids can become very useful in the long-term treatment of severe pain. These conclusions were published in the Journal of Opioid Management.
Cannabis is a substance that is helping with the opioid crisis. Around 130 people die every day from an overdose of opioids in the US.
The people in my practice are starting to substitute opioids for cannabis or manage to reduce the dose of their pain medication. I can affirm from my own experience that cannabis is the most effective treatment against this addiction,” says Peter Grinspoon, a researcher at Harvard University’s School of Medicine.
In a recent study, scientists from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, saw that “cannabinoid receptors are effective in the treatment of inflammatory arthritis,” indicating that they play important roles “in bone remodeling and in the pathogenesis of joint disease.”
In fact, several nursing homes have authorized the use of CBD oil. Its residents have the right to purchase CBD in many formats, although they usually authorize oral forms.
According to data revealed by the American National Survey on the use of drugs and health, the use of cannabis in people over 65 years increased by 250% between 2006 and 2013.
Cannabis is officially booming in the United States, and imagination is the only limit to the development of new products in which to commercialize CBD.
It is time for science to advance in the understanding of the substance, and there is no better laboratory to do so than a country with a large population, where health benefits are so evident.