Research for medicinal cannabis promising, despite bureaucratic hurdles
In his New York Times article on December 26, 2018, Dr. Richard Friedman stated that cannabidiol (CBD) may be simply an expensive placebo. This careless claim ignores the work of many researchers. A placebo, by definition, is a substance that is harmless physiologically. For a substance to be harmless, it should exert little to no effects on any biological systems. This is definitively not true for CBD, as my colleagues and I, and other researchers have shown.
CBD alters the properties of many proteins including sodium channels, which are intimately involved in pain and epilepsy, among many other functions. The success of CBD in clinical trials against Dravet syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy that causes frequent and unstoppable seizures, is an important example of how CBD has therapeutic value.
The CBD research field is still in its infancy, and any potential risks associated with its use have yet to be revealed. Rigorous research must be undertaken to understand both risks and benefits of CBD and other cannabis derivatives. However, research remains difficult in light of the bureaucratic hurdles that must be overcome to obtain cannabinoids for research purposes in many parts of the world, including Canada, where recreational cannabis is legal nationwide.
Negative connotations and incorrect terminology to describe CBD may further hinder much needed policy change, which will inevitably slow down important research.
Mohammad-Reza Ghovanloo is a biomedical researcher at Simon Fraser University and has authored both scientific and non-scientific papers on CBD.