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CBD: Placebo or Panacea?
t’s been a while since a trend has whipped the zeitgeist into more of a frenzy than CBD has managed. Keto came close, there was that whole grapefruit diet fad and there were the “fat-free” potato chips whose only side effect was explosive diarrhea. If there were a shortcut to wellness, or a onesize-fits-all pill, Americans would crave it. Some still miss Fen-Phen. Heart attacks, schmart attacks! Look at how small my thighs are! It was hard to get a good response to a poll at the luckbox offices about who’s tried CBD. “What are you, a narc?” “If you’re a cop you have to tell me…” “I smoked at Lilith Fair once, does that count?” OK, so let’s look at the stats. “The Brightfield Group, a cannabis research firm, estimates that hemp-derived CBD sales could hit $22 billion by 2022.” This is from The Complete Guide to CBD, which is on the rack at grocery stores. See? Zeitgeist. It was next to US Weekly. But what, exactly, is CBD? CBD, or cannabidiol, is simply one of about a hundred molecules found in hemp and cannabis plants. CBD is the nerdy “nonintoxicating” little bro molecule to THC’s cooler older bro molecule that’s known for its “high.” Anecdotally, CBD can help with almost every ailment from insomnia to chronic pain to anxiety. “So far, messages of CBD’s purported health benefits come from people trying to sell CBD products—not from scientists—and a gaping chasm separates the surging CBD
luckbox | august 2019
market and the scientific evidence backing it,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist who directs the Marijuana Research Laboratory at Columbia University. Illinois, home to luckbox (we tried to set up in the Grand Cayman for “tax purposes” but…), has become the 11th state to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use by adults. And a recent survey shows public sentiment has shifted, with as many as 60% of adults favoring legalization of cannabis at the federal level. So luckbox reached out to a local physician, Dr. Rahul Khare, who runs Innovative Wellness in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, to get his take on CBD and its benefits and myths. (See pg. 30 for more from Khare.) Khare said in an interview that for decades doctors were trained to steer patients away from marijuana. “You need to get off. It’s illegal. There are no health benefits,” was the standard litany, he recalls. But that changed. “All of a sudden, three-and-a-half years ago, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s legal (medically in Illinois),
It used to be ibuprofen and Tylenol. Now there’s something stronger— there’s cannabis
and it has all these health benefits,’ and the doctors are like, ‘Wait, what?’” Khare attributes the disconnect to the lack of a network that would provide information to physicians. “We just haven’t gotten the training,” he says. “There’s not a beautiful drug rep coming into my office. That’s how physicians learn. We’re marketed to. It’s nuts.” Anyone know what a buxom drug rep bearing baked goods could “educate” physicians about? Opioids. “We have an issue with opiate over-prescription...so it’s time to acknowledge that and change our prescribing habits,” Khare maintains. “Now we have high-CBD-content cannabis. We have alternatives, which we really haven’t had for a long time. It used to be ibuprofen and Tylenol. Now there’s something stronger—there’s cannabis. It’s changing the way we’re dealing with pain management.” Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it difficult to conduct clinical research into its ability to help patients. According to an article in the March edition of Science News, “Scientists still don’t know all of the targets CBD hits in the human body, nor what effects it may have—if any. Much of the existing research was done with cells in the lab or in lab animals, with results that don’t necessarily translate to people.” Khare pushes back on this assertion and emphasizes that mankind has been using cannabis for thousands of years. Even if someone is experimenting with it to cure her own issues the risk of side effects is low.
PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR
By Vonetta Logan