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CBD for Chronic Pain Doesn't Work, Large Review Finds

"There is no good reason for thinking that CBD relieves pain," the authors bluntly wrote.

CBD for your chronic pain may turn out to be a dangerous dud, the authors of a large review say. They found little evidence from clinical trials that CBD can be an effective pain reliever.

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These products also tend to have inaccurate labeling information about the amount of CBD they contain or even other undisclosed ingredients that could be hazardous to users, they add.

CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the two primary ingredients in cannabis (the other being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is responsible for the drug’s characteristic high).

CBD and other cannabinoids do have legitimate medical uses. In 2018, for instance, the CBD-based drug Epidiolex was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of certain types of seizure. And there have been numerous studies suggesting CBD could be used to treat a variety of health conditions, including anxiety, schizophrenia, opioid use disorder, and chronic pain. But not all the studies on CBD have been positive, and there are many claims made about its potential benefits that have weak scientific backing.

This new study, led by researchers at the University of Bath in the UK, reviewed data from randomized and controlled trials—often considered the gold standard of clinical evidence—testing CBD in a variety of forms (topical, oral, under the tongue) for chronic pain. All but one of the studies found that CBD wasn’t any better at pain relief than placebo.

The authors also found evidence from other studies and reviews that CBD products are frequently mislabeled, containing less or much more CBD than advertised or sometimes having other ingredients that could be harmful or illegal for users to possess, such as THC.

And while these impurities are less likely to show up in products explicitly designated for medical use, consumers nowadays are more often getting CBD products from retail or online stores. Some research has also suggested that heavy or long-term use of CBD isn’t necessarily harmless either, possibly raising the risk of liver damage.

“There is no good reason for thinking that CBD relieves pain, but there are good reasons for doubting the contents of CBD products in terms of CBD content and purity,” the authors bluntly state in their paper, published in the April issue of The Journal of Pain


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