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I’ve gone from a wheelchair to walking thanks to cannabis

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Fibromyalgia sufferer Jane Hinchcliffe was housebound and wheelchair dependent for years, but since using medical cannabis she’s back on her feet.

“Cannabis gave me a life,” says Jane Hinchcliffe, who suffers constant, debilitating pain as a result of fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Now 42, despite showing symptoms at 13, it took until she was 26 for her to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Doctors put it down to growing pains and she was treated with physiotherapy, followed by a prescription for codeine at the age of just 15.

She spent the next three decades of her life in a fog of heavy opioids and painkillers. In 2015 after a cycling accident Jane developed CRPS, a chronic autoimmune condition usually brought on by an injury.

“It’s known as the most painful condition known to man,” she says.

“On the McGill Pain Index it can score up to 47 out of 50, whereas cancer and fibromyalgia score 20.”

Jane’s symptoms were so bad she needed a wheelchair to get around and couldn’t leave the house. It took its toll on her mental health and she struggled with depression, until two years ago when she started using medical cannabis.

“I started smoking it recreationally at 18 and I used it on and off over the years, but I didn’t realise at the time that I was treating my fibromyalgia,” she says.

It wasn’t until she attended a Green Pride event in 2018 that she realised the full potential of medicinal cannabis.

“I knew that it was going to be a painful day so I’d saved a bottle of morphine the hospital had given me so that I had decent pain relief,” she explains.

“I ended up having a space cake and didn’t need the morphine – that’s when I realised cannabis could actually replace my medication.”

In November 2018, Jane came off the opioids completely and now relies solely on cannabis to treat her pain.

“I’m still in constant pain but the cannabis makes it tolerable,” she says.

“I’ve literally gone from being housebound in a wheelchair, not being able to do anything. Now I can go swimming, I go to the gym, I can go out cycling. I’m out and about and walking.”

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Jane has recently signed up to Project Twenty21, which is subsidising the cost of prescriptions for medical cannabis patients, in a bid to create the largest body of evidence in Europe for the efficacy of cannabis-based medicines.

However, for the last two years she has been forced to access it illicitly, living with the anxiety of not being able to get hold of the right strain, as well as the fear that the police will turn up at the door.

Last year Jane spent time in prison after she was convicted and sentenced to six months for growing cannabis.

“I only served 46 days before I was released on tag, but it was difficult,” she says.“They take your medicine and you are left with nothing.

“I ended up in a wheelchair again in prison, there were some days where I was in too much pain to do anything.”

But despite being left with a criminal record, Jane says she has no intention of stopping using cannabis.

“I don’t have a choice, life without it is just unbearable,” she says.

“It makes me angry, because it’s just medicine.“I think some sort of discretion should be used, if it’s obvious it’s for medical use.”

Jane welcomes initiatives such as the Cancard scheme, which is due to launch in November and aims to protect patients who are accessing cannabis illicitly from arrest and prosecution.

But she fears police officers may choose to ignore it and believes laws should be brought in to allow patients to grow their own medicine at home.“Ideally we need to be able to grow our own,” she adds.

“It would take the strain off the NHS and doctors are always telling us to get a hobby – what better hobby than growing your own medicine?”

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and cannabis: What does the latest research say?

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Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes chronic pain across the body

Cannabis Health rounds up the latest research into the impact of cannabis on fibromyalgia. 

There are thought to be around 1.5-2 million people in the UK currently living with fibromyalgia, a condition which causes chronic pain around the body, muscle stiffness and fatigue.

With no cure for the illness and symptoms severely affecting day-to-day life, research is focusing on therapeutic treatments – including medical cannabis. 

In 2019, research published by Sagy, Schleider, Abu-Shackra and Novak showed that cannabis can help reduce fibromyalgia pain. The study of 367 patients found that pain intensity decreased when treated with medical marijuana, leading the team to state that “cannabis therapy should be considered to ease the symptom burden among those fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care”.

Chaves, Bittencourt and Pelegrini further supported these findings in October 2020, concluding that phytocannabinoids can serve as an affordable yet well-tolerated therapy for fibromyalgia symptom relief and quality of life improvements. 

After the randomised controlled trial, the researchers went as far as to suggest that the cannabinoid therapy “could become an herbal or holistic choice of medicine for treating fibromyalgia as part of Brazil’s public healthcare system”.

A study in Italy, published in February 2020, also demonstrated that medical cannabis improves the efficacy of standard analgesic fibromyalgia treatments. 

Researchers concluded: “This observational study shows that medical cannabis treatment offers a possible clinical advantage in fibromyalgia patients, especially in those with sleep dysfunctions.” 

Published in the Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal, the study followed 102 fibromyalgia patients who had not responded well to conventional treatments. These participants were given two forms of medical cannabis oil extracts and researchers then collected data over a six-month period from patients, who self-reported fibromyalgia symptoms, how well they slept, and feelings of fatigue, as well as depression and anxiety levels.

While only a third of fibromyalgia patients reported reduced symptoms of the disease overall, cannabis did improve overall quality of life for some. Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety were found in around half of patients, too. 

Despite fibromyalgia being more common amongst women – up to 90 per cent of sufferers are female – one study has found that cannabis may provide better pain relief for men.

The preclinical studies, conducted in 2016, compared the analgesic, subjective and physiological effects of active cannabis and inactive cannabis in male and female cannabis smokers under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions, and measured pain response through the Cold-Pressor Test. 

Among men, active cannabis significantly decreased pain sensitivity relative to inactive cannabis. However, in women, active cannabis failed to decrease pain sensitivity relative to inactive, indicating that in cannabis smokers, men exhibit greater analgesia compared to women.

Researchers concluded: “Sex-dependent differences in cannabis’ analgesic effects are an important consideration that warrants further investigation when considering the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for pain relief.”

While further research is necessary, it is clear to see that medical cannabis can make a huge difference to treatment and relief of pain caused by fibromyalgia.

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The best ways to take CBD for pain relief

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CBD is becoming a popular tool for pain management, but with so many options out there, how do you know where to start?

With research constantly emerging to support the health benefits of CBD, more and more people are turning to the remedy – especially when it comes to alleviating pain and discomfort.

But how does it actually work? There are several ways to take CBD, each offering various pros and cons – we’ve rounded up some of the best methods. 

Get topical

In terms of pain relief, one of the most common methods is on the skin. Topical products like lotions and balms can be applied to skin over painful joints or bones and are particularly effective when used to relieve symptoms of arthritis.

However, research is still ongoing to determine whether these products deliver CBD below the skin. It is also difficult to pinpoint the exact effect CBD delivers – with many including common over-the-counter ingredients such as menthol, capsaicin and camphor, it’s uncertain whether the positive relief is solely due to CBD, or if these other ingredients play a significant role.  

Several studies have hailed CBD oil as one of the most helpful methods when it comes to relieving pain symptoms, especially when combined with other forms such as topicals. 

Medical nutritionist and health author Dr Sarah Brewer said: “Cannabidiol oil has direct effects on the endocannabinoid system in the brain. This enhances the effects of other brain chemicals, such as serotonin and anandamide, to reduce pain perception. It is also a powerful antioxidant which suppresses inflammation.” 

Something to digest

Another well-known method for using CBD is by mouth. Whether in capsules, food or liquid, CBD that is swallowed is absorbed through the digestive tract. 

Despite its popularity, this method does have its downfalls. Absorption is slow and dosing can be tricky due to the delayed onset of effect (it can take one to two hours to fully have an impact), plus many believe there isn’t enough research into how recent meals and other factors affect consumption.   

But it has been widely reported that after a safe and effective dose has been established, capsules can work for daily use.

While it may not taste particularly pleasant, CBD can also be effectively absorbed directly into the bloodstream by holding liquid from a spray or dropper under the tongue. Research shows effects can the be felt in as little as a few minutes. 

Give the vapors

CBD can also be inhaled via a vaporising, ‘vape’ pen. However, it’s possible that inhalation can carry unknown risks, particularly in those with respiratory issues and ailments such as inflammatory arthritis, and so isn’t widely recommended as a method for use. 

With all methods, the common downfall is wavering dosage guidelines. Measures can change depending on a number of factors including age, weight and reason for use, however resounding guidance from experts is to ‘go low and slow’. Start with just a few milligrams twice a day, and if relief is inadequate after one week, increase the dose by the same amount, in small increments over several weeks if needed. 

It’s clear that more research is needed to determine exact details into these methods, but this is only set to increase as the number of people turning to CBD for pain relief continues to grow. 

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CBD distillates, isolates & full spectrum – what’s the difference?

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Fresh Bros take you through the more technical side of CBD

With so many CBD products on the market, do you know your distillates from your isolates? The experts at US manufacturer Fresh Bros break it down.

Las Vegas manufacturer Fresh Bros have nearly a decade of experience in the hemp industry.

The team’s aim is to produce innovative formulas that suit personal needs in terms of performance, recovery, relaxation, and overall wellbeing. 

But with so many products on the market Fresh Bros want to help consumers find the best products for their needs.

Here they explain the differences between CBD distillate, CBD isolate, and full-spectrum CBD products, as well as highlighting the key differences between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC.

CBD isolates 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most researched compounds of all the known phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. 

CBD isolates are, unsurprisingly, isolated forms of CBD. During the extraction process, cannabidiols are removed or filtered out of the hemp plant except for CBD, resulting in a pure product. 

CBD isolate is great for anyone who struggles with the original earthy flavors of other conventional oils or edibles, so if you’d prefer a high-potency CBD product that is tasty, doesn’t contain THC and or any “extra” cannabinoids that are found in a distillate or full-spectrum product — CBD isolate may be the way to go.

CBD distillates

Unlike CBD isolate, CBD distillate (aka broad-spectrum CBD) typically contains an array of cannabinoids, terpenes, vitamins, and fatty acids that are very beneficial to the body. CBD distillate contains only negligible amounts of THC after going through special processing. 

CBD isolate is an incredible healing source, of course, but there are hundreds of other beneficial cannabinoids found in the hemp plant besides CBD – cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) to name a couple. 

Therefore, if you want to reap all of the potential benefits of CBD without the high, and you don’t mind the stronger taste, CBD distillate may be the best option for you. 

Full spectrum

Full-spectrum CBD products contain all cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant materials – including the naturally occurring small amount of THC in hemp. 

 

Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC

The cannabis plant has more than 120 cannabinoids, but only a fraction of these have really been studied and marketed. Delta 9 THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and has received a lot of attention over the last few years. 

However, consumers are slowly noticing the lesser-known Delta 8 THC (a less available double-bond isomer of the more common Delta 9 THC, also derived from hemp) due to its unique properties. The main differences between these two types of THC are found in the molecular structures of both, and it’s worth noting that Delta 8 THC is capable of producing a milder, more manageable, and more enjoyable high compared to Delta 9. 

Delta 8 also has added therapeutic benefits and less severe and functionality-impairing side effects.

 

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