by Mallory Culhane
In November of 2017, an anonymous University of Tampa student was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Chemotherapy took a mental and physical toll on the student, causing them to search for other ways to handle the pain.
“After my first round of chemotherapy, I was mentally exhausted,” said the student. “I had lost all my hair and the vast majority of my friends; my body was weak and I was losing sight of the big picture.”
Once the student’s sister introduced cannabidiol (CBD) products, such as the gummies, it quickly improved their mental and physical health. Since then, they have used CBD gummies, a CBD pen, and CBD-infused bath bombs.
“I had a different outlook on my situation, I started to feel like myself and it helped me realize that my physical appearance has no effect on who I am as a person,” they said.
In a survey of 132 UT students, 40% of students have tried a CBD product. Nearly 11 million Americans, according to a report published by Reuters, are using CBD products. CBD has been marketed as a wellness product that comes in a variety of forms: oil, coffee, food, soap, and the list goes on. Many people have gravitated towards CBD because it’s a natural alternative to alleviate various physical and mental conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.
CBD is derived from hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant. Which is the same species of plant marijuana is from, but does not contain the psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that products a high.
“The non-intoxicating point is big…it has opened up the possibility of cannabis to folks who might have never wanted to try weed, despite its medicinal benefits, because they didn’t want to get high or do something illegal,” said Lauren Wilson, author of Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol Can Transform Your Health Without the High.
In 2018 Congress passed the Farm Bill. This allowed the production and sale of hemp. Each state is required to draft their own regulations on hemp to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In July, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instituted a program that required hemp growers to go through a licensure process. Tampa CBD businesses were able to hop on the trend before this since it was legal under federal law.
Jakki Bosco, licensed massage therapist and owner of Tampa Massage Clinic, began selling CBD oil to her clients after much demand. Bosco and her employees first researched CBD and even tried it out for themselves before recommending it to their clients.
“Honestly, at first we thought we were going to find that it was just another gimmick,” Bosco said. “I started taking [CBD oil] for my chronic neck pain due to an old injury and disc degeneration; day five I woke up with no pain and full range of motion in my neck.”
CBD interacts with several systems in the body, including the endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD stimulates the ECS, which causes homeostasis, the balance of physical and chemical conditions in the body, according to Marissa Fratoni, a holistic registered nurse and cannabis advocate practicing in Massachusetts. This can hinder inflammation and the feeling of pain.
“Everyone has an ECS – no two are alike; so, what works for one person may not work for the next at all,” Fratoni said. “I have found that some people respond incredibly well to micro-doses of cannabinoid medicines to treat significant chronic illnesses, and some people require much greater doses to attain the desired effect.”
The ECS can also have an impact on various psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, which is a significant draw for many. In the UT survey, 64% say it was to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.
Alexis Curtis, sophomore marine biology major, started using CBD oil over winter break in 2018.
“I have pretty bad anxiety and wanted to try something more natural before trying medications,” Curtis said. “It doesn’t completely get rid of my anxiety, but it does lessen the effects for the time being and it makes me feel more mellowed out.”
Despite the praise and popularity of CBD, it’s severely unregulated and definitive proof of its health benefits – and risks – are limited. A report published in June 2018 by the World Health Organization detailed extensive studies on the effectiveness of CBD on epilepsy, especially in children. Besides this, research on CBD treatment of other medical conditions is lacking, according to Dr. Jordan Tishler, cannabis specialist practicing at InhaleMD, a private practice that provides cannabis medicine in Massachusetts.
“Despite its popularity, which, I’ve been overwhelmed at the meteoric rise in popularity, CBD has yet to prove useful in most cases,” Tishler said. “There’s no human data worth discussing for anxiety, insomnia, pain, or any other of the million things it’s being touted for.”
Mallory Culhane can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org