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A team from the University of Bath went so far as to call CBD products marketed for treating chronic pain “a waste of money.” CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the many natural chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike other cannabis compounds, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t contribute to marijuana’s trademark “high” feeling.

Although previous studies have suggested that CBD may benefit human health in a number of different ways, the new review did not find any solid evidence to back up claims that cannabis compound reduces pain.

“CBD presents consumers with a big problem,” says Professor Chris Eccleston, who led the research from the Centre for Pain Research at Bath, in a university release. “It’s touted as a cure for all pain but there’s a complete lack of quality evidence that it has any positive effects.”

“It’s almost as if chronic pain patients don’t matter, and that we’re happy for people to trade on hope and despair,” Eccleston adds.

During the study, researchers from the Universities of Bath, Oxford, and Alberta in Canada reviewed several scientific journal articles examining the use of CBD for pain relief. The results, published in The Journal of Pain, reveal some concerning points about the CBD products available to the public.

Key Findings:

  • CBD products sold directly to consumers contain varying amounts of CBD, some with much more than advertised.
  • These products may contain chemicals other than CBD, some of which may be harmful and some illegal in some jurisdictions. Such chemicals include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, which makes users high.
  • Of the 16 randomized trials that explored the link between pain and medical CBD, 15 showed no positive results, with CBD being no better than placebo at relieving pain.
  • The meta-analysis linked CBD to increased rates of serious adverse events, including liver toxicity.

The team from Bath notes that medical marijuana is the only CBD product requiring regulatory approval in the U.K. People often take these drugs to help ease symptoms related to epilepsy, side-effects from chemotherapy, and pain from multiple sclerosis.

Non-medical CBD products in the United States, U.K., and other European countries are widely available as long as they contain little to no THC. However, the researchers explain that retail CBD products aren’t covered by trade standards, so manufacturers don’t have to meet requirements managing their consistency or quality. Moreover, popular CBD products that the public can purchase online may end up containing less CBD than they claim.

“For too many people with chronic pain, there’s no medicine that manages their pain. Chronic pain can be awful, so people are very motivated to find pain relief by any means. This makes them vulnerable to the wild promises made about CBD,” says Dr. Andrew Moore, a study co-author and former senior pain researcher in the Nuffield Division of Anesthetics at the University of Oxford.

The study authors claim that healthcare regulators seem reluctant to crack down on the claims being made by many CBD products on the market today. The reason? Moore suspects that they’re unwilling to interfere in the booming cannabis market — which brought in $3 billion globally in 2021, according to the team.

“What this means is that there are no consumer protections,” Dr. Moore concludes. “And without a countervailing body to keep the CBD sellers in check, it’s unlikely that the false promises being made about the analgesic effects of CBD will slow down in the years ahead.”

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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5 Comments

  1. Sara says:

    I have used it for 4 years. Before that the
    Doctor had me on very high doses of Opiods. CBD has changed my life. I had chronic pain for most of my 66 yrs of life. I do not take any Opiods anymore.

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  3. Brad says:

    It’s good you are getting the placebo effect, but there are cheaper and safer placebos out there.

    1. BP says:

      Why don’t you not reply and tell people what their experiences are when you cannot know and are only bloviating?

  4. Don says:

    This is a remarkably truthful science review article that people should read and take heed. We all know that different medicines and substances affect people differently. We also know quite well about the placebo effect with medications and foods people may consume.

    I have extreme lower back pain and because I live in Thailand where CBD is now legalized, at least until the end of 2024, I tried CBD liquid drops under my tongue for several months last year or two separate one-month trials. I was so hopeful this might provide me some relief, any relief. However, it didn’t happen. So each time I paid out $100 for a very small vial of the CBD liquid, I was in a very positive mind set. NEVER did I experience any pain relief whatsoever. None!

    So this article should be reviewed with the knowledge that some rare individuals are more prone to get placebo relief, even if they consume an M&M candy. Scientific studies show that the more expensive the medicine is, the more likely it is that the patient will experience placebo effect. I once checked with my pharmacist who informed me that his pharmacy, in fact, sold one particular placebo where each tablet cost the consumer about $25 per pill. Caveat Empton applies.