Medical Practice

Understanding the practical aspects of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

 

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Board-certified Neurologist, Epileptologist

@VThornleyMD

July 15, 2018

Introduction 

This serves as medical information for educational purposes only not medical advice. Please consult with your treating  physician.

In contrast to the rest of the blog which is more scientific, this gives more practical information in the day to day workings of recommending medical cannabis. It gives the behind the scenes processes that happens before a patient can even begin to start their medical product. It is not a magic pill but because it is unlawful in Florida, a physician cannot even write it on a prescription pad. It takes one hour or more to evaluate, counsel and go over the registration process when presenting for the first time to a doctor.

For more detailed information and scientific references for specific indications please refer to
https://neurologybuzz.com/

Medical cannabis is one of the most misunderstood and controversial medications in the world. Long suppressed for over a century, it is one of the most misunderstood medications known to mankind despite being used for thousands of years with medical intent.

This is to give a brief basic background of mechanisms, rationale for ratios, combinations, pitfalls of isolates and synthetics and legal implications.

Background

The endocannabinoid system is found naturally in our body. It is responsible for the runner’s high people get. It gives a sense of wellbeing, not endorphins like most people think, those molecules are too large to pass the blood-brain-barrier. There are 2 receptors:(1) the CB1 receptor found mostly in the nervous system and (2) the CB2 receptor which is more abundantly found in the immune system. Anandamide works on the CB1 receptor, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is similar to this and works on the CB1 receptor. CBD or cannabidiol is from the cannabis sativa plant and is also a phytocannabinoid. One needs 100 times the CBD to get the euphoria as THC. CBD is not intoxicating, legal and works on a wide variety of symptoms including pain, seizures and anxiety. CBD is similar to 2-arachidonoyl glycerol which is a natural cannabinoid. When the 2 are combined together, CBD will offset side effects of THC including paranoia, hyperactivity and agitation. This is a not known fact to those who self-medicate with pure THC.   Because of this THC is medically recommended in conjunction with CBD. Smoking is illegal and not medically recommended as most people think. https://neurologybuzz.com/2018/04/02/medical-marijuana-vlog-series-part-i-mechanisms-medical-benefits-of-non-intoxicating-cannabidiol-and-tetrahydrocannabinol/

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Pitfalls of self-medication

Sometimes patients self-medicate and smoke pure THC from dubious sources to alleviate symptoms, which is illegal and not medically recommended in Florida.  However, the intoxicating effects are not seen when recommended medically using oral forms, cream or patch. At low doses, as is done when recommended medically, THC is non-euphoric. When THC is combined with CBD the side effects of THC are offset. The dangers of patients who self-medicate is that they do not know where the products are coming from and it can be mixed with potentially dangerous substances that can be potentially fatal. In addition, there are highly potent synthetic illegal cannabinoids known as K2 and spice which at high doses can cause cardiotoxicity and fatalities. Self-medicating with THC from an unknown source is highly discouraged as there may be mold involved with the processing. https://neurologybuzz.com/2018/05/31/the-fatal-effects-and-mechanisms-of-synthetic-cannabinoids-including-jwh-compounds-used-recreationally/

Why is a CBD and THC combination important?

In regulated licensed dispensaries, CBD is combined to offset the side effects of THC allowing better tolerance. THC is not recommended by itself because of side effects including paranoia, agitation and hyperactivity.

CBD by itself

With pure CBD, there are certain medical symptoms that are alleviated.

It is legal. There are many companies with CBD products but it is difficult to know how pure these products are, even if you have a small amount of hemp it can be marketed as CBD hence, its ineffectiveness. Some of the most effective CBD products can be found from Colorado and California, anecdotally. Everything else is hit or miss.

In the state of Florida, there are very few medically beneficial CBD products, it’s trial and error. The purer the form such as full spectrum CBD oil the more expensive it will be because processing organic products are costly. A cheap product will likely not be as pure just because of the huge amount of work that goes into extracting the cannabidiol. In addition, some may have flavors, cutting agents and other agents to dilute it but because it’s unregulated.

Ratios

CBD alone has no psychoactivity but medical value. CBD is combined with THC in order to offset its side effects of paranoia, agitation and hyperactivity.

Time of onset and duration

There are different ways of trying it: vaporizer lasts 1 hour and takes about 10 minutes to get into your system. Because the vaporizer is inhaled into the lungs the onset is the fastest because of the rich supply of blood vessels in the lungs. It is advisable to try the vaporizer at home or at night before setting out to see how it affects you. Oral forms last 6 to 7 hours and takes about 1/2 hour to get into your system. Oral form comes in oil concentrate and tincture. Cream and patch last about 12 hours or longer depending on the preparation. Medical marijuana is NOT recommended by physicians to be smoked. Recreational marijuana by smoking is prohibited and unlawful in Florida. This law varies by state. When different parts of the plant are taken together including the terpenes it gives an entourage effect which is more medically valuable than when components are isolated for its use.https://youtu.be/Ir4rwgF2iNc

Are there any edibles in Florida?

As of July 2018, there are no edibles in the state of Florida. It will take an enormous amount of submitting documentation and providing capital before edibles will be implemented in Florida. The dispensaries are working on this.

Registration process: what to expect in Florida

The process includes an evaluation by a qualified licensed physician. https://neurologybuzz.com/2018/07/12/legalities-and-application-process-in-the-state-of-florida/A qualified physician undergoes a 2-hour course and holds a full medical license in the state of Florida. One is evaluated and if patient meets the stringent criteria, they obtain a registry number. The patient undergoes registration which takes between 2-4 weeks. An e-mail arrives before the card then one is instructed to call the office so that recommendations are placed in the system. Oftentimes, if you don’t hear back in 4 weeks it is advisable to give the registry a call. It may be a misentering of an e-mail causing a delay.

Regulated dispensaries in the Florida

In Florida, there are 13 medical marijuana treatment centers and 43 retail dispensaries as of July 2018. In the state of Florida, patients can only obtain the Cannabis products recommended from their treating physicians from these dispensaries. It is illegal to smoke. There are 4 ways of taking it: oral, vaporizer, cream and patch. It is advisable to visit one of the licensed dispensaries in person so that the exact instructions can be given. Physicians recommend orders which are entered into the system. So long as the product is within the number of mg dispensed and the way it is recommended (oral, vaporizer, cream or patch) patients are at the liberty to change the ratio or dosage so long as it is within the orders.

Once you are registered

An e-mail with the marijuana card number comes before the physical card. It is advisable to call the physician office so the orders are placed then physically visit the dispensary of your choice so specific instructions can be taken. Because this is not a pharmacy, doctors do not have immediate access to the dispensary. One should be aware of which product they are taking before their next checkup. This can be easily accessed through the website of the dispensary.

The orders will expire after 70 days after which there is a processing fee of renewal at the office. The certification for medical marijuana expires after 1 year. One must be re-evaluated by their physician before then.

CBD is purely cannabidiol, it is non-psychoactive and legal. THC at low doses is non-intoxicating. Dispensaries combine CBD and THC to offset side effects.  It is federally illegal. It is advisable to be registered under a medical doctor who is qualified to determine if one meets criteria. Medical cannabis products can only be dispensed from a regulated licensed dispensary. Medical marijuana products outside of the jurisdiction of Florida regulates licensed dispensaries cannot be advocated.

Legal implications of THC

In some states, such as Florida, medical use of cannabis is recognized. THC is still considered federally illegal. Recreational use of cannabis is illegal. Smoking THC is illegal. Physicians cannot prescribe it since it is a schedule 1 drug but can recommend it. Schedule 1 drugs are considered illicit and labeled as having no medical use. A statement before the qualifying course on medical cannabis states that the physician can be questioned at any time by the FBI and authorities.

In other states, medical and recreational use is allowed.

In other states, medical and recreational use is completely banned.

The law also varies regarding cultivation of the cannabis sativa plant.

Countries will vary in their marijuana laws.

The laws change very rapidly. Regulations are changed nearly every month with more documentation required from physician offices including consent, doctors’ notes, patient information with indication. As each month goes by another new document is required for submission from the physician office. There is increasing bureaucracy likely signifying resistance at some upper levels against its use related to economic and political reasons. Dispensaries have an equally challenging time. Even worse are small farms applying for licenses huge amounts of capital and documents are required.

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Legal implications of CBD

CBD is legal throughout the US. Countries may vary in their laws since they both come from the cannabis sativa plant.

FDA approved medications and products approved in Europe with CBD and THC

A medication called Epidiolex for seizures with CBD has recently been approved for seizures. Because it comes from a strain from the cannabis sativa plant, cannabis will need to be deregulated from the schedule I category before Epidiolex can be marketed to the public.

Dronabinol has long been approved for nausea and can only prescribed for patients with cancer with chemotherapy induced nausea. It is a synthetic THC and is FDA approved.

In Europe, the medication Sativex which is a combination of CBD:THC has long been used for spasms in multiple sclerosis. This is not available in the US.

In summary

For patients, it is beneficial to have a working understanding of the different strains, different forms that are available in order to obtain the best benefit.  Dispensaries have a huge breadth of products. It is easier to understand as much as possible before facing the overwhelming number of options. Patients must understand all the legal implications in your state as they change rapidly. It is not only a medication it is affected by state and federal laws that change in a blink of an eye which can affect the patient if they are not aware.  One must be mindful that there are different types of practices recommending medical cannabis. The best practices are those that are an already established practice which added medical marijuana to their repertory. Practices that are solely for medical marijuana may be of dubious quality. There are already horror stories of patients never getting a card after several months and phone calls not being advisef on what to do, being examined in a conference hall. As with any new innovative service, there will be legitimate practices and there will be those who meet the minimum requirement of care and service. http://www.tampabay.com/investigations/2018/05/04/floridas-medical-marijuana-program-is-attracting-troubled-doctors-its-like-the-wild-wild-west/

For doctors recommending, one must be well-versed in understanding the potential side effects, drug interactions, the latest scientific research since these are the only guidelines that are guiding us from a scientific level. Pre-clinical studies cannot be ignored nor studies on synthetics to have a better grasp of understanding how it works. One must have a basic understanding in the effects of the phytocannabinoids which is best taken in combination and not in isolation. Patients come with complex medical problems it is always prudent to do due diligence in understanding as much as possible before recommending a product that was never studied for medical purposes in medical school. Patients will ask tough questions, physicians should understand as much as possible and do their due diligence being up to date on legislations as well as the most recent research. The hard questions will come.

One must also follow the legal implications, current regulations which are frequently updated. It is the physician’s responsibility to understand the mechanisms, be current on the literature because this is a pioneering science. Those recommending right now are trailblazing and should still be mindful of the great role you play in understanding what literature is available and to read voraciously.

Last thoughts

While much is still unknown about CBD, THC and mechanisms, there is great anecdotal data from history and clinical anecdotal experience supporting its benefits. While many traditionally trained physicians scoff at the prospect of introducing alternative treatments, one must bear in mind cannabis was not an alternative medication before it was banned in 1830.

While scientists are working overtime in elucidating the mechanisms to combat diseases such as cancer, one must bear in mind that medical cannabis is beneficial when taken in combination with other terpenes found in the plant and the components are not isolated from each other. THC works best in combination with CBD and with other components from the cannabis sativa plant.

When components are isolated from each other and products become synthetic and manufactured much of the benefits are lost and significant side effects result. https://neurologybuzz.com/2018/05/31/the-fatal-effects-and-mechanisms-of-synthetic-cannabinoids-including-jwh-compounds-used-recreationally/

Once it becomes synthetic and components are isolated, the benefits will be substantially altered.

Now is a optimal time to try the benefits of medical cannabis while it is still all organic and being produced on farms and regulated for its use, unsullied by synthetic forms where the risk of side effects are greater.

While much is still to be learned, for a medicine that can easily cover 5 symptoms in one setting, it is an extraordinary time to be recommending and benefiting from medical cannabis while it is still organically natural and pure.

 

Introduction/Disclaimer

About

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fibromyalgia

Medical marijuana in fibromyalgia: molecular mechanisms and small randomized controlled trials

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

@VThornleyMD

June 17, 2018

Introduction

Fibromyalgia used to be  a condition denoting excessive pain and was previously questionable as there was no testing that could prove or disprove it. Now, the current thought is that it is attributed to hypersensitivity of the nervous system to pain impulses resulting in multiple points of pain in the body.

Endocannabinoid system in pain modulation

The endocannabinoid system is a major chemical neurotransmitter system that has only come to light as to physiology in the last 20 years. The CB1 receptor is found predominantly in the nervous system on which the endogenous endocannabinoid anandamide exerts its effects. The CB2 receptor is found mostly in the immune system on which 2-Arachidonoylglycerol acts. In the nervous system, cannabinoid receptors are seen in the periaqueductal gray area, ventromedial medulla and dorsal horn of the spinal cord which are areas where pain transmission takes place. This suggests that endocannabinoids play a major role in modulation of pain and can impact pain control through manipulation of this system.

Anandamide and and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol are synthesized on demand. It is released immediately after production. 2-AG is formed from a 2 step process. Anandamide has a low affinity to the TPRV1 receptor (2).

1,2-diacylglycerol (DAG) is  a precursor or 2-AG which is formed by hydrolysis of membrane phosphoinositides. DAG is hydrolyzed by 2-AG hydrolase to form 2-AG. 2-AG may be stimulated by activation of G protein receptor such as glutamate receptors. It activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Cannabidiol which is found in the cannabis sativa plant is a natural mimetic of 2-AG. Endogenous 2-AG is found 170 times more than Anandamide in the brain. Exogenous 2-AG suppresses nociceptive stimulus (2). 2-AG activity is potentiated with natural 2-acylglycerols which enhances the effects which does not happen when used alone. This is an entourage effect found in the brain where the combination of substances give a combined resulting effect which does not occur if used alone (2).

Mechanisms in pain modulation

Cannabinoids were found to reduce nociceptive transmission at the level of the pain c-fiber responses in the spinal dorsal horn.

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Randomized controlled trial in fibromyalgia

In one study of 40 patients in a randomized controlled clinical trial, nabilone which is a synthetic cannabinoid was given over a 4 week period. Measures that were evaluated included the visual analog scale for primary outcome and for secondary outcome measure, tender points, secondary outcome measure, Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) at weeks 2 and 4 were used. There was statistical difference in treated vs. control groups for pain (P value< 0.02), anxiety (P<0.02 and FIQ (P<0.02). There were more side effects for the treated cohort compared tot he placebo controlled group. This study demonstrates that cannabinoids may be an effective treatment for fibromyalgia (1).

In one paper that reviewed 18 randomized controlled clinical trials of cannabinoids in chronic pain syndromes including fibromyalgia, cannabinoids were found to be an effective type of treatment. Despite the short duration of the trials, pain relief was effective and mild to moderate adverse effects were noted. Larger clinical trials are needed (2).

About

Introduction/Disclaimer

https://neurologybuzz.com/

  1. Skrabek, et al, “Nabilone for the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia,” J. Pain, 2008, Feb., (9)2:164:173
  2. Lynch, et al, “Cannabinoids for treatment of chronic non-cancer pain: a systemic review of randomized trials,” Br. J. Pharmacology, 2011, Nov., 72(5):735-744
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Alternative Treament

Pulse Electromagnetic Field: PEMF electromagnetic mats, is it hocus pocus or is this a real life treatment

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

April 8, 2018

 

Introduction
Many patients suffer from chronic pain due to a number of medical conditions. Medications have been tried, physical therapy, ablative procedures, even nerve stimulators have been implanted without much luck. Treatment always has to start somewhere and just because a treatment modality sounds inconceivable does not mean it will not work. First, anecdotal and testimonial reports come in, followed by small case series, then large randomized clinical trials which are the gold standard studies. This is the final step before they are officially approved to be on the market with the nod from the FDA and eventually covered by insurance.
One may have seen a commercial about electromagnetic mats, or even seen someone bring one out to use. Or perhaps seen on street corners, vendors swearing by magnetic wristbands. Pregnant women have heard about electromagnetic wristbands to help with nausea but what is all the hoopla? Is it just a hocus pocus magic trick with effects due to a placebo reaction or is there really a science behind it?
Mechanism behind PEMF
One such treatment is the PEMF or the pulse magnetic field treatment. In the field of PEMF or pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, there is an extremely low electromagnetic field that depolarizes, repolarizes and hyperpolarizes the cells. The idea is that there is an inherent gravitational magnetic energy coming from the earth which exerts some effects on the human system and the way the human systems work. The idea is that cells are dependent on small amounts of energy in order to function. Physicians are well aware that sodium channels open to allow sodium to propagate causing an electric current within the nervous system. It is a similar concept, these electrical currents allow the systems to do their natural function. Cells are dependent on a certain amount of positivity or negativity for channels to open and close within the cell membrane. When this is disrupted the cell cannot efficiently perform its function.  It focuses primarily on the microvessels dependent on this energy where wastes are expended because the cell is metabolizing more effectively with increased blood flow at the microcirculatory level. The microcirculation is dilated rather than constricted and able to carry away the natural products of metabolism. In addition, microvessels are important in serving the purpose of transmitting products from one organ to another. When this does not occur, the system is at an imbalance which likely contributes towards the diseased state. This energy can be directed towards the area of interest to modulate pain or exert its desired results.  As far-fetched as it sounds what is more astounding are the many scientific reports showing the medical benefits of this concept.
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Some scientific studies corroborating its effectiveness while some could not come up with an effective conclusion nor a negative outcome

It has found its way in a myriad of conditions including pain, psychiatric disorders such as depression, neurological conditions making it a plausible alternative in treating medical conditions. In a randomized controlled clinical study evaluating pain from knee osteoarthritis in 57 patients, an electrodeless therapy delivered a sinusoidal magnetic field of about 4-12 hertz in the treated group. The treated group showed a great reduction in pain, stiffness, and disability compared to the control group with sham treatment. Using the VAS visual analog scale for pain and WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster University Index. Effectiveness was graded as very good and good in the PEMF treated group at 29% and 27% respectively compared to the sham-treated group at 0% and 15.5% (1).

In a pilot study of 24 patients, PEMF was applied showing a 50% reduction to neuropathic pain in a study in 2005 (2).

In one study of failed back surgery cases, PEMF was applied to 35 patients for 45 days. 67% of responders claimed meaningful improvement compared to sham-treated,  44% had less back pain 55% had less leg pain in those treated. There was a higher response 60% in those who had a discectomy compared to those without(3).

PEMF was applied to a large group of patients of 482 and compared to 448 non-PEMF patients. Those PEMF-treated had a significant reduction of pain (4).

One review of 14 randomized clinical trials could not come up with a general conclusion supporting its effectiveness due to different types of frequencies, different parameters, and different settings used.

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In conclusion

While there have been numerous reports spanning 3 decades on not just pain but other conditions as well such as edema and healing in the post-operative state in plastic surgery, effectiveness in bony diseases, insomnia, even depression, regarding its effectiveness, the jury is still out.  Large uniform clinical randomized trials are needed to officially approve of this alternative type of treatment for it to be widely accepted as is always the case.  As with acupuncture which was previously considered Eastern medicine and has now gained popularity in treating medical conditions, anything novel will be met with some amount of skepticism. However, for any cutting edge open-minded physician this may be a non-risky alternative treatment in treating different medical conditions, when a patient has already failed everything. Just like Neo on the Matrix one may just need to take the red pill to keep your mind open.

About

https://neurologybuzz.com/

Reference

  1. Wuschech, et al, “Effects of PEMF on patients with osteoarthritis:results of a prospective, placebo controlled double blind study,” Bioenergetics, 2015 Dec., 36(8):576-85
  2. Weintraub, et al, “Pulsed magnetic field therapy in refractory neuropathic pain secondary to peripheral neuropathy:electrodiagnostic parameters-pilot study,” Neurorehab. Neural Repair., 2004, Mar., 18 (1): 42-46
  3. Harper, et al, “An open-label pilot study of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the treatment of failed back surgery syndrome pain,” Int. Med Case Rev. J., 2014, Dec., 8:13-22
  4. Ryang, et al, “Effects of pulsed electromagnetic field on the knee osteoarthritis a systematic review,” Rheumatology, 2013, May, 52 (5) 815-824.
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Epilepsy, Glaucoma, pain, Peripheral neuropathy, Tumor

Medical Marijuana: why the huge disconnect between physicians, laws, policies, and patients?

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

March 11, 2018

Introduction

A patient comes to you asking “Doc, my seizures are getting worse, I really hate the side effects of my medications, I really want to go a different route. Have you heard about medical marijuana?” You start sweating profusely, fidgeting in your seat, thinking of every single reason why not to recommend it and come up with  the standard response, “uh, well, I’m not qualified to recommend it and it’s not FDA approved, plus we don’t really know much about it there could be so many side effects.” And then we have the oldie but goodie response, “there’s not enough large randomized control trials to recommend it.” This scene plays 100,000 times over if not a million times over in physician offices across the country. Patients who are disillusioned with adverse effects of medications are looking towards alternative therapy. As surprising as it sounds, patients with chronic pain do not want to get intoxicated by opioids. In fact, some want to be tapered off of them or refuse them all together. Patients with end-stage cancer at the terminal stage of their lives wish to live a comfortable and humane existence without the need for more chemotherapeutic medications or pain medications that consistently make them feel like a zombie. While other patients with epilepsy may be on 4 different anti-epileptic agents and can no longer function or have a good quality of life because of side effects. There are two sides to every coin.

Why you should be educated on cannabidiol and THC use in medical conditions

If patients do not get their answers from their trusted physicians who they trust with their well-being, their health, the temples of their souls, they will go to great lengths in procuring this knowledge. This is via various sites on the internet some of the dubious nature others are from high quality companies that have been in business even before this seeming treatment fad started. Or, the information may be obtained from their brother-in-law’s friend’s hair stylist who is now pain-free after going through a long course of pain medications including ablative treatments, physical therapy, and acupuncture and has a physician who does recommend it. Like it or not, cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol are alternative treatment options and are gaining more and more traction. To ignore it is to be complacent with the changing direction and landscape of medicine. As patients become more and more disillusioned by the limitation of conventional treatments, attention is directed towards alternative regimens. It is not just for the yoga-practicing patient looking for more natural methods, one sees the sweet 83-year-old gentleman who must be someone’s grandfather with the chronic hip pain of 50 years who have failed opioids and is simply looking for pain relief.

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Is there any evidence that it works?

The endocannabinoid pathway is found naturally in the system. It is responsible for the runner’s sense of wellbeing one gets after a 5-mile run and the pleasant mood you get after a 1-hour work-out with Zumba. There are 2 receptors in the system CB1 receptor which has the highest number of brain cells and the CB2 receptor which is found predominantly in the immune system. There are 2 common cannabinoids cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol which exert various medical effects. Cannabidiol (CBD) has a weak affinity for the CB1 receptor and one needs 100 times the amount to get the same euphoria that one gets from tetrahydrocannabinol, the bane of every ER physician. Unfortunately, the side effects of euphoria of THC have preceded its popularity as a medical product. Little do we know it was once used for hundreds of years as a medication before the psychoactive properties were exploited for recreational purposes. In urologic culture cell lines, it is found that cannabinoids may reduce proliferation of cancer cells and reduce the pro-inflammatory microenvironment that is necessary for metastatic conditions (1). Human studies are still needed to determine a reduction in tumor loads. THC receptors are found in retinal cells and may be found to reduce intraocular pressure in glaucoma (5, 6). Cannabidiol is found to bind to the 5HT1 receptor which reduces anxiety. THC has been well-established in the mouse model to promote the inhibitory control of excitatory pathways in the hippocampus, where seizures commonly arise (8). There is an increase in CB1 receptors after prolonged seizures suggesting a compensatory response.  It has been used in combination and found in several randomized control trials to reduce the frequency of seizures by as much as 36% in medically refractory patients (2). It is well-established that cannabinoids reduce pain refractory to conventional medications (3). It has been found in bench research to be an antioxidant and have anti-inflammatory properties (4, 7). Some studies cite side effects of somnolence, nausea, dysphoria, however, it is not clear what was the quality of cannabinoids or dosages were used. At high doses, while THC can reduce pain it may also result in side effects, which is why it is usually used in combination with CBD which ameliorates the side effects of THC.  In addition, cannabidiol by itself has no euphoria and it takes 100 times the amount to achieve intoxication seen with THC use. Synthetic products will have more side effects than products that are organic meaning only of natural materials.

Given the huge amount of evidence in several different medical conditions (3), the results should overwhelmingly be towards a push in using cannabinoids more frequently. However, because of the cynicism of the public, physicians even of patients, who have been exposed more frequently to the harmful psychoactive side effects, the benefits are far overshadowed. More clinical randomized controlled trials are needed. Most literature cites small numbers of patients enrolled in studies or review multiple medical centers where the conditions are not uniform. In addition, some of the patients that would benefit the most are the least in numbers such as those with rare neurological conditions such as Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastuat syndrome.

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In conclusion

As it still stands, many states still do not recognize the medicinal value of cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol. In some states, medical physicians are not allowed to recommend it and put themselves at risk for FBI questioning in even suggesting its use. It is not uncommon for patients to move states or order from other states or countries to procure this liquid gold that is supposed to work wonders. Only time will tell if this is a passing fad and if there are long-standing side effects, however, as of current standing, medical marijuana is here to stay. As far as the literature goes, there are beneficial results but it is a cautionary tale as more studies in large human trials are still needed. As with any new preclinical data, the preclinical status may get ahead of itself and human trials do not replicate the desired results. But from the small clinical trials in seizures, pain, nausea, anxiety, and loss of appetite, the results are promising while more research is needed for anti-tumor effects in humans.

As with any medication, there will be clear-cut side effects just as with any other medication which is why more studies are needed to determine the least amount with the least amount of side effects. In some studies,  amounts upwards of 50mg/kg (2) is used the high amounts likely responsible for causing side effects, which is far higher than that cautioned by medical marijuana dispensaries. It will take patients time to wrap their heads around taking guidance from a fresh-faced 20-year-old millennial at the spa-like dispensary which is currently the norm at most dispensaries, who likely knows much more than even most medical professionals. It seems it will take even longer in Congress to understand the potential benefit of cannabinoids from a medical standpoint especially with the present opioid epidemic. Countries in Europe have far surpassed the United States when it comes to cutting-edge treatments. Perhaps, it will take even longer for the medical community to see the medical potential with their exposure to the sinister side of tetrahydrocannabinol seen in patients in the ER for non-medical reasons, which may be one of the most challenging stumbling blocks.

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Introduction/Disclaimer

References:

  1. Ghandhi, et al, “Systemic review of the potential role of cannabinoids as anti-proliferative agents for urological cancer,” Can. Urol. Assoc. J., 2017, May,-April., 11(3-4):E138-E142.
  2. Devinsky, et al, “Cannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial,” Lancet Neurology, 2016, Mar., 15(3):270-280.
  3. Petzke, et al, “Efficacy, tolerability, and safety of cannabinoids for chronic neuropathic pain: a systemic review of randomized controlled studies,” Schmerz, 2016, Feb., 30(1):62-88.
  4. Rajan. et al, “Gingival stromal cells as an in vitro model: cannabidiol modulates genes linked with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, 2017, Apr., 118(4):819-828.
  5. ElSohly, et al, “Cannabinoids in glaucoma II: the effect of different cannabinoids on intraocular pressure on rabbits,”Current Eye Research, 1984, Jun., 3(6):841-50.
  6. Jarvinen, T., “Cannabinoids in the treatment of glaucoma,” Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2002, Aug., 95(2):203-20.
  7. Carroll, et al, “9-Tetrahydrocannabinol exerts a direct neuroprotective effect in human cell culture model of Parkinson’s disease,” Neuropathology and Applied Neuropharmacology, 2012, Oct., 38(6):3535-547.
  8. Kaplan, et al, “Cannabidiol attenuates seizures and social deficits in a mouse model in Dravet syndrome,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 2017, Oct.
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Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy: chronic pain amelioration with cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabidiol

Virginia Thornley, Neurologist, Epileptologist

March 8, 2018

Introduction

Chronic pain from neurological conditions such as neuropathic pain can become refractory to conventional medications. Interest is directed towards novel ways of treatment such as cannabidiol and THC which are known in animal models to be anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective. Cannabinoids are being used more commonly in patients who have failed medical treatments and remain a viable option in the treatment of pain. Many animal models point towards mechanistic evidence that cannabidiol and THC reduce severity and frequency of pain syndromes. Cannabidiol is non-intoxicating and is an alternative form of management. With THC, the level of pain relief is higher but with that comes a higher risk of side effects at greater doses.

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Cannabidiol and neuropathic pain in joints

Osteoarthritis involves inflammation, pain, and neuropathic pain. Cannabidiol was studied in rat models and its effect on pain from the joints and nerves. In end-stage osteoarthritis, cannabidiol reduced joint afferent pain. Transient joint inflammation was reduced using cannabidiol. CBD application used prophylactically demonstrated lack of development of pain and inflammation during later stages.

One study suggests that chronic neuropathic pain might be suppressed by cannabidiol through alpha 3 glycine receptors. In mice lacking these receptors, there is no cannabidiol analgesic effect. Cannabinoids are found to support glycine activity in the dorsal cell neurons in rats. This suggests that glycinergic cannabinoids may provide a potential therapeutic option in treating neuropathic pain. There is lack of psychoactive side effects or development of tolerance (1).

Cannabidiol and neuropathic pain studies

In one review of 15 randomized controlled trials against placebo with a total of 1619 patients, 13 studies consisting of 1565 patients reported a reduction of pain compared to placebo which was statistically significant. There was a frequency reduction in pain of 30%. 10 studies used nasal tetrahydrocannabinol /cannabidiol and 3 used synthetic cannabidiol while 2 used medical cannabis. They concluded that cannabidiols were marginally superior and had greater side effects than placebo. It is a treatment option for patients who have failed several lines of treatment. Some flaws that can be seen in this study is that with this study, some centers used synthetic forms of cannabinoids and others used a combination of THC and cannabidiol. Synthetic medical marijuana has a different quality compared to a product that is purely organic and made from natural materials. High doses of THC is known to cause side effects while with lower doses of THC pain relief may be obtained with fewer side effects. It is not clear how pure the products are which were being administered.

In one large study of 303 patients with peripheral neuropathy, 128 used CBD/THC spray and 118 randomized to placebo. End-point was a 30% responder rate using the PNP numerical scale 0-10. There was a substantially higher number of responders for CBD:THC but not statistically significant. Quality of life and sleep improved in those with CBD/THC nasal spray. They concluded that use of CBD/THC helped improve pain from peripheral neuropathy and there were no substantial adverse effects from the patients studied (3).

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References
  1. Xiong, et al, “Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting alpha 3 glycine receptors,” Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2012, Jun., 209(6):1121-1134.
  2. Petzke, et al, “Efficacy, tolerability, and safety of cannabinoids for chronic neuropathic pain: a systemic review of randomized controlled studies,” Schmerz, 2016, Feb., 30(1):62-88
  3. Serpell, et al, “A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of THC/CBD spray in peripheral neuropathic pain treatment,” European Journal of Pain, 2014, Aug., 18(7):999-1012.

 

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