The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that up to 29% of patients who are prescribed opioid medication misuse or abuse them. And, in an age where prescription medication and surgical intervention appear to be the “norm,” many are turning to alternative medicine instead.
Cannabinoids, along with CBD products and marijuana (both legal and medicinal), are rapidly growing in popularity for this reason. A Gallup Survey found that 1 in 7 Adults Use CBD Products (https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-08-08/1-in-7-adults-use-cbd-products-gallup-survey-finds). What exactly are cannabinoids and what do they do?
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids originated from the Cannabis plant, the same plant where hemp and marijuana come from. A cannabinoid is considered a chemical or a compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system within the body.
As of now, researchers have discovered over 60 cannabinoids. The more common ones include THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana that produces psychoactive effects, and cannabidiol, an ingredient known to calm and soothe the body’s nervous system. It’s important to note that not all cannabinoids will get you high.
What They Do & How They Work
When cannabinoids enter your body, the first system they interact with is something called the “endocannabinoid system.” This is where they bind to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain as well as in your immune system.
Cannabinoids are known to reduce the activity level of neurons within your body. As a result, Future Medicinal Chemistry states that your pain pathways are inhibited, inflammation is less likely, and your nervous system is calmed to an extent.
Cannabinoids & Medicinal Benefits
Given these recorded benefits and further ongoing research, there’s great potential for cannabinoids to be used in the treatment of many health conditions. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the conditions and/or symptoms that cannabinoids may be useful for include:
- Cancer, HIV & AIDS (i.e. Reduced vomiting/nausea, increased appetite, and weight gain)
- Epilepsy (i.e. Lower risk of seizures, reduced frequency of seizures)
- Multiple Sclerosis & Arthritis (i.e. Less joint and nerve pain, greater mobility)
- Lower dependence on opioids
- Reduced severity of anxiety, PTSD, and sleeping problems
- Fewer digestive issues (IBS, specifically)
Most of the research into cannabinoids is still in the preliminary stages. That means you may want to consult with your doctor before adding this substance to your treatment regimen.
Possible Risks & Dangers
Though research is still underway into the benefits of using cannabinoids, there have been reported risks and dangers that come along with use. These side effects are considered rare, but they are something you should think about before using cannabinoids.
Take a look at the possible risks and dangers according to Neurotherapeutics.
- Increased risk of tachycardia (heart rate 100 beats per minute or higher)
- Higher blood pressure
- Greater risk of both prostate and cervical cancer
- Risk of suppressing your immune system
- Reduced amounts of slow-wave sleep and lower sleep quality
- Impaired memory, thinking, and attention
It’s important to understand that there is a lot of opposing research related to the side effects. For example, some studies have shown that cannabinoids suppress the immune system while others are known to strengthen it.
So, there’s no telling whether you’ll have a good or bad experience with these substances.
Cannabinoids have great potential in the medical world, but it’s important to realize that these substances and products aren’t a cure by any means. There have yet to be conclusive studies that prove cannabinoids to be successful one way or another the majority of the time. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before beginning use of these products.