CBD Oil for Lupus: Is it Safe? Effective? Legal?

 

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CBD oil, which is derived from marijuana, has become a trend when it comes to treating diseases involving pain and inflammation. But is it effective for lupus?

So far, we don't have research on CBD oil specifically for this disease, but a growing body of research suggests that it may help treat several aspects of it.

Because medical marijuana is still fairly controversial, and the laws are confusing, there's a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about CBD.

That can make people hesitant to try it.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD is short for "cannabidiol." While it comes from cannabis, it doesn't get you high because it doesn't have psychoactive properties. The high comes from a different chemical in the plant called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Marijuana growers focus on strains and techniques that increase THC levels. Cannabis that's grown for hemp tends to have a lot more CBD than THC.

If you look online, you can find a lot of huge claims about using CBD oil for medicinal purposes. Claims are so glowing, in fact, that you might start to wonder if they can possibly be true. Certainly, when they come from websites that promote marijuana legalization and use, you may be wise to question the veracity.

It's too early in the research process for us to be able to say "yes" about many of the claims. However, we're learning enough to be able to say "it's possible," or even, "we think so."

CBD oil is used to treat a host of different conditions, although it's not approved for any of these conditions, as of mid-2018.

When it comes to taking CBD oil, you have a lot of options: smoking, taking capsules, drops or sprays under the tongue, and as a topical ointment. Research in the United States is in the early stages since for decades it was illegal to even study it here.

CBD Oil for Lupus

With a lack of research on CBD oil for lupus, we have to go on what we know about CBD in general and what we can understand from research into conditions with similar symptoms or pathology. This potential treatment is likely to get attention from lupus researchers eventually, though, for several reasons.

  • Lupus contributes to an epidemic of pain, including untreated and undertreated pain. Current treatments are far from perfect, so drug companies have a sizable financial incentive to find more effective medications.
  • The opioid addiction/overdose epidemic is a huge problem for society that puts a lot of strain on the resources of the medical community as well as law enforcement. Meanwhile, several studies have shown that when marijuana becomes legal in a state, the number of opioid prescriptions—and overdose deaths—drops. That's bound to get the attention of doctors, who want to protect their patients, law enforcement agencies battling the problem, and lawmakers seeking solutions.
  • A wealth of research suggests that CBD oil is effective against pain and inflammation. In its pure form, it's generally regarded as safe, as well. Lupus involves considerable inflammation.
  • We have abundant anecdotal evidence from people with lupus who say it's effective. That can't substitute for scientific proof, but it's one more thing that gets doctors interested.

Additionally, a 2018 study published in Cellular Immunology found that CBD may alter T-cell activity after spinal cord injury. Abnormal activity of T-cells (which are part of the immune system) are believed to be involved in lupus.

Lupus can include pain from neuropathy (nerve damage), and multiple studies suggest that CBD can alleviate that type of pain from diabetes, HIV, and other sources.

CBD Side Effects

We probably don't yet know all of the possible side effects of CBD. Some side effects that have been reported are:

  • Changes to liver enzymes used to process drugs
  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased tremor in Parkinson's disease, at high doses

The World Health Organization says CBD oil may also:

  • Alter hormonal levels
  • Stimulate the immune system at low levels, and suppress it at higher levels

CBD doesn't appear to lead to addiction or abuse. It's also believed to have a low toxicity level, which means it takes a lot to cause an overdose.

Is CBD Legal?

You'd think the question of whether CBD is legal would get a straightforward, yes or no answer, but the legality issue can be confusing.

A lot of pro-marijuana websites say it's legal in all 50 states as long as it doesn't have more than 0.3 percent THC because of the provisions of a specific farm bill. But in 2018, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that the farm bill doesn't apply to hemp or products derived from it.

That means, for now, all cannabis products are still legally classified by the DEA as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substances. They're illegal under federal law.

At the same time, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says it supports medical research into marijuana extracts, including CBD, because they've shown so much promise. In an April 2018 interview, TV station WTHR quoted a DEA spokesperson as saying the agency doesn't consider people using CBD medicinally a priority.

"[I]t would not be an appropriate use of federal resources to go after a mother because her child has epileptic seizures and has found something that can help and has helped. Are they breaking the law? Yes, they are. Are we going to break her door down? Absolutely not," said the DEA's Rusty Payne.

The decline in tobacco sales, which has put a real dent in income for tobacco farmers, could help get hemp and hemp products legalized. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in April 2018 fast-tracked a bill to federally legalize hemp, containing less than 0.3 percent THC, as an agricultural crop. If it passes, all legal concerns about CBD would go away.

On the state level, it depends on where you are. Marijuana is now legal in many states, either for medicinal or recreational use. Other states have passed laws specifically legalizing CBD, too.

In states where CBD is illegal, people have been arrested, tried, and convicted on drug charges for possessing it. It pays to know before you buy what the laws in your state are. The website ProCon.org has information about which states have laws specific to CBD oil.

A Word From Verywell

Treatment decisions should never be taken lightly, and that applies to "natural" treatments like CBD as well—especially when you take the law into account. Consider the pros and con carefully, and be sure to discuss this option with your doctor. Even if you're taking it illegally, your doctor needs to know—your health could depend on it.  As with any treatment, it's important to watch for side effects.

With legal changes in store and lots of research coming out, we can probably expect a lot of change, and quickly, when it comes to CBD oil.

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