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Considering CBD for arthritis pain?

Oil in a bottle with a dropper. April 1, 2021—It seems like cannabidiol (CBD) is everywhere these days. And it's not just a trend for the young.

In fact, industry reports show that people with arthritis are among the top buyers of CBD. And a 2019 survey by the Arthritis Foundation found that people with arthritis are very much interested in using it for pain relief.

What is CBD?

CBD is a chemical extracted from hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant that is related to marijuana. CBD doesn't get people high, but it can cause some drowsiness.

In animal studies, CBD has been found to offer pain relief and calm inflammation. But these effects have not yet been confirmed in humans. Still, some people with arthritis who have tried CBD say they've experienced noticeable pain relief, better sleep and reduced anxiety.

Is CBD safe to use?

So far, no serious problems have been associated with moderate doses of CBD. But it can interact with other medicines you take. The Arthritis Foundation advises talking with your doctor before using CBD if you take:

  • Corticosteroids (such as prednisone).
  • Tofacitinib (Xeljanz) for rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Medicines for fibromyalgia.
  • Pain relievers, like naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib (Celebrex) or tramadol (Ultram).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adds that CBD may cause problems like:

  • Liver damage.
  • Changes in alertness.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Changes in mood, such as irritability.

Is it legal?

CBD that comes from hemp is in what the Arthritis Foundation calls a "legal gray zone." Clarifying laws may be on the way, but right now CBD can be purchased in nearly every state and online.

Still, the FDA recently warned consumers that the only officially approved CBD product is a prescription drug for epilepsy. Others have not been evaluated by the FDA, and their quality may vary widely.

If you decide to try it

While the jury is still out on CBD in many respects, the Arthritis Foundation offers these tips for people who are considering trying it:

  • Talk with your doctor before using CBD. Check in again every three months as you would with any new treatment.
  • Ask your doctor about the pros and cons of different forms of CBD. It can be taken orally, inhaled or applied to the skin.
  • Look for products made in the U.S. with domestic ingredients.
  • Buy from companies that test each batch. Look for claims that testing methods are approved by the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, the U.S. Pharmacopeia or AOAC International.
  • Avoid companies that claim their products cure diseases.
  • Don't use CBD to replace disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These important medicines help prevent permanent joint damage in inflammatory types of arthritis.
  • Start with a low dose. Increase it in small increments weekly if it doesn't seem to be working.
  • If you don't notice symptom relief, stop taking it. CBD is expensive, and it may not be right for you.

Not so sure about CBD? Explore other alternative treatments for arthritis pain.

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