Millions of people across the United States suffer from chronic pain each year.
For some, it lasts a lifetime.
Doctors across the state are turning to a relatively new method to manage chronic pain. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil was legalized in Indiana July 2017.
It is gaining popularity because doctors said it’s a natural approach to pain relief. In fact, some doctors believe CBD could be the answer to combating the opioid crisis.
It is being prescribed to patients to treat chronic pain – and is helping wean people off paid medications.
Kelly Combs was diagnosed with Lupus 17 years ago. Lupus can attack organs and tissues in your body causing unimaginable pain, said Combs.
“Living with lupus is pretty much living in pain, a lot of the time,” she said. “Getting out of bed was very difficult. By the time your muscles warm up and your joints warmed up, it takes about an hour or two in the morning.”
Combs said doctors tried everything. Eventually she was prescribed high doses of opioids.
“Nothing seemed to work for me,” she said. “Nothing seemed to alleviate the pain for any period of time besides narcotics.”
She soon learned that relief would come in a bottle of CBD oil. After taking it every day, she saw significant improvement in just four months.
“I completely came off all my narcotics and felt amazing,” she said. My pain level actually decreased.”
Dr. Daniel Roth of Summit Pain Management said he prescribes CBD oil to about a fifth of his patients.
“I started seeing patients get better and better and better without any serious adverse side effects or events,” said Roth.
The oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and should contain no more than .3% of THC. Doctors believe it can help treat several medical problems – including pain and anxiety – but does not cause intoxication.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deb McMahan said this could be a real tool used to address the opioid epidemic.
“It’s important if we’re saying we don’t want you to use opioids but we want you to maintain functionality, work, be productive in your family… we need to be able to start offering some alternatives,” she said.
CBD KIK is one of dozens of shops that has popped up across the area since CBD was legalized last year. The store’s owner Brittany Fountain said curiosity brings many of her customers through the door.
“A lot of people that come here don’t know anything about CBD,” she said. “The most common product [people buy] would be CBD oil that goes under your tongue. Other people get topicals where you can apply it directly to your skin if you are having pain. A lot of people use smokable products as well so you can get instant relief.
By law all CBD products are required to have a QR code. That code can be scanned with an app on your phone and it will pull up lab results that will tell you exactly what is in the product.
CBD is legal in Indiana and more than a dozen other states. However, it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means the quality of the product can vary by manufacturer.
“The CBD oil that is out in the public isn’t getting the quality control and isn’t getting scrutinized on its content of THC and CBD,” said Dr. Jay Fawver of Parkview Health. “I’m hoping to see, over a period of time, is long term studies. How are people doing after they’ve been on it for six months, or a year on a regular basis?”
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a 2017 study that looked at more than 80 different CBD products. It found that a majority of the ingredients do not match the label.
“There were big time variations in the concentration of THC,” said Roth.
Marc Weintraub of Bios Labs said his company makes, sells and tests CBD products.
“Some of the CBD that we have tested on the market has zero CBD in it,” he said. “So many companies out there are buying third party oils and slapping a label on a bottle and starting a website.”
As for Fountain, she stands by the quality of the products her store sells. CBD KIK was voted Indiana’s Best CBD dispensary.
“Talk to your physician,” said Roth. “Do your own research and try to find a product that has a really strong reputation.”
Roth said his patients’ success stories only reinforce the effectiveness of the product.
“They were taking less pain medication, they stopped taking their anxiety medication,” he said.
“CBD oil has changed my life,” said Combs. “And I feel so grateful for it.”