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“The best years are ahead of me”: How CBD is helping this former Paralympian get back on track

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Will Smith competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

A Paralympian who competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow aims to return to professional wheelchair racing in 2021 – and he says CBD is helping him get there.

Will Smith, 25, from Northallerton, suffers from Spina Bifida, a lifelong spinal condition which means he has no use of his lower limbs.

At the age of eight years old, he competed for the first time in wheelchair racing athletics and has since represented Team GB, becoming a decorated Paralympian who was tipped to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, six-time gold medallist David Weir CBE.

Following a successful stint competing for the national team, both at a junior and senior level, Will side-lined his competitive wheelchair athletics to study law at university.

“I partly decided to go [to University] because I was always interested in the academic side of things while I was training and competing, but I also wanted to move down to London, because that’s where my training base was,” Will tells Cannabis Health.

“I managed to balance the training and studying at the same time, but as I was really enjoying the degree I was studying, I thought I’d like to really make a go of it.

“The training dropped off a little bit so I could focus on my degree and now I’ve graduated and landed my first job in the legal sector, I’m starting to increase my training again.”

Now working in the trademark department at the UK Intellectual Property Office, Will is undertaking an increasingly tough training schedule as he builds towards competitive racing again in 2021.

He has been using a CBD to combat the aches and pains induced by a gruelling training routine, as he targets a return to competitive racing.

“I plan to enter some domestic competitions by the middle of next year and then hopefully to kick on into the winter. I see the spring of the year after that as a benchmark to properly get back into the sport,” Will adds.

Former Paralympian, Will Smith.

 

While working to get his fitness levels back to competitive standards, Will has become reacquainted with the challenge of injuries and niggles that come with the territory of wheelchair racing.

Wrist injuries are common, as the sport requires a demanding clenched-fist technique on the push rims of the wheelchair.

Finding that these injuries and strains had a negative effect on both his training and his concentration in his day job, Will started using a pain-relieving CBD topical gel, applying it to his wrists, back of his neck and upper shoulder area before and after sessions.

He instantly noticed a benefit to his training capacity, completing longer sessions and recovering from his training at a quicker pace than usual.

“With wheelchair racing, you tend to see athletes really struggle with wrist injuries and shoulder impairments,” Will explains.

“Our bodies aren’t designed to do what we do in terms of the training and the force that we need to generate through these parts of the body.

“I’ve previously had wrist and shoulder injuries, so I would use it initially as a preventative measure before a session. I would put it onto the wrist areas and found that I could train at a higher intensity for a little bit longer without necessarily feeling those common pains that I usually get.”

He adds: “I’d also use it for niggles that I felt when the day’s finished to help with the recovery. With the training that’s required for elite athletes, time is extremely precious and valuable. The ability to use it as many times as you need without the need for a physio is something I’ve really benefited from.”

CBD treatments for athletes are not uncommon in the marketplace since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed the anti-inflammatory cannabis compound from its prohibited substances list in 2018.

Looking back to this time, Will remembers a stigma surrounding the supplement and a hesitation among the sporting community.

“There was definitely a kind of hesitancy,” he recalls.

“And with British Athletics being my governing body, they were obviously really conscious and tight on what you put into your body. I think now, as the market grows and expands, people are becoming more aware of the legitimate high-quality products on the market and some of the real benefits that people can enjoy from it.”

Despite growing awareness of the supplement and a widening choice of products, it was difficult for Will to find a compliant solution. Many CBD brands claimed to have products with low-THC without certification. As professional athletes are subject to THC testing, making many of these options were unusable for him.

In the end, Will settled on the brand, Biosportart, which has undertaken third-party certification from the Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), confirming their products contain absolutely no THC, making it a safe option for elite performers like Will.

“Before I found this gel, there just were not quality products out there with the third-party verification that you could trust,” Will says.

“WADA removed CBD from the prohibited substance list, but they are very clear that any other residue of the cannabis plant, not just THC, is illegal.”

Will’s targeted comeback for 2021-22 will be welcome after a frustrating year in light of the COVID-19 climate. At 25, he feels confident that he is yet to achieve his athletic peak. There are still records to be beaten, as he still seeks to fulfil and surpass expectations that he will be the next David Weir of the sport.

“2020 has been a pretty trying time for everyone and of course I’m just thankful that I have my health, but like most people, quietly hoping that things get back to normality soon. Ultimately, I’d like to get back to the level I was at and of course, exceed it,” he says.

“I think the beauty of wheelchair racing is that it’s a real endurance and power-based sport, so we find that the guys who compete at the top level tend to peak in their late 20s or early 30s.

“I’m lucky that at my age, I’m still considered to have my best years ahead of me.”

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Industry

Provacan brings high-strength, 72% CBD to UK

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Kanabo's VapePod will be compatible for Provocan's new CBD range

The science-led brand is bringing the latest cannabis technology to the UK with two high potency CBD formulas.

Provacan, the CBD brand from cannabis research company CiiTECH, has introduced the two 72 percent products as part of its popular VapePod range developed in partnership with Kanabo. 

The Provacan range of VapePod compatible pre-filled pods have grown to become one of the company’s most popular vape products.

The VapePod device was developed by Israel-based Kanabo Group and provides users with a certified, safe and effective vaporisation system with innovative metered dosing with high bioavailability. 

Vaporisation of CBD improves the rate of absorption when compared to other means such as ingestion.

The device optimises efficiency while delivering CBD formulas more safely and simply. It can only be used with compatible pre-filled cartridges, such as Provacan’s Day and Night pre-filled pods.

Kanabo recently became the second cannabis company to list on the London stock exchange. 

This is a revolutionary step for the VapePod entering the medical cannabis scene in the UK and is vital for patients for whom this delivery method will replace the smoking of cannabis flowers.

Avihu Tamir, CEO at Kanabo, said: “We are pleased to have CiiTECH as a partner in the UK for developing pure innovative hemp formulas. The unique formulas are coupled with the VapePod platform which give consumers great satisfaction in knowing that they’re getting the most out of their CBD.”

Building on the popularity of the 55 percent CBD VapePod­­ range, Provacan has worked with Kanabo Research to launch two new higher strength vape formulas for its customers. 

The all-new Night Terpene and Day Terpene CBD VapePod formulations contain 72 percent CBD together with other minor cannabinoids and a potent mix of terpenes.

Terpenes are widely used and can be found in essential oils and aromatherapy. 

Additionally, the all natural pods are free from traces of pesticides, heavy metals and solvents and don’t containing PG, VC, MCT, nicotine or vitamin E. 

Provacan is part of the growing portfolio of brands by leading British cannabis company CiiTECH Ltd, with R&D management based in Israel.

Founded by Clifton Flack in 2017, Provacan is the flagship brand within the portfolio and focuses on bringing the latest cannabis technology to its loyal consumers in the UK and across the world.

Partnerships with international medical cannabis research companies fuel CiiTECH’s product development and provide brands like Provacan with forward thinking industry knowledge and the ability to create highly respected science-backed CBD products for sale in the UK today.

Eli Whiteman, CiiTECH’s VP business development, said: “Our partnership with Kanabo goes back a long way and beyond technological innovation. Our main priority is to strive to ensure our customers have access to a superior combination of bioavailability, unique delivery systems and consistent CBD products that they can rely on.

“We achieve this by channelling consumer demands into product development and by partnering with like minded medical cannabis companies that do the same.”

The new Night Terpene CBD and Day Terpene CBD VapePods are available from Provacan now, retailing at £49.99 each. To find out more information about the products, visit https://provacan.co.uk/vapes/.

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Health

Integro Medical Clinics: How cannabis can help manage migraine pain

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Sponsored feature

The experts at Integro Medical Clinics explain how cannabis medicines can help manage and alleviate the excruciating pain of migraine.

Migraine can be a devastating and utterly miserable condition that can have a profound effect upon the patient’s quality of life.

But medical cannabis can offer a really effective, side-effect free treatment option, as we see in our patients’ story with Mike.

A migraine is categorised as a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. It is generally accompanied with symptoms such as feeling sick, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.

It’s a common health condition, affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men and they usually begin in early adulthood.

No one knows exactly what causes migraines, although they are thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.

Many patients find they have a specific trigger such as certain food or drink, stress, tiredness or hormonal changes such as starting your period. Around half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition.

There are several types of migraine, including:

migraine with aura – where there are specific warning signs just before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights

migraine without aura – the most common type, where the migraine happens without the specific warning signs

migraine aura without headache, also known as silent migraine – where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache does not develop

The frequency of the occurrence of migraines really depends upon the individual. It can be several times a week to every few years.

There’s no one specific cure for migraines. Patients try pain medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen and triptans to help with the pain but these medicines are often ineffective.

If you suspect a specific trigger is causing your migraines, such as stress or a certain type of food, avoiding this trigger may help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines.

It may also help to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, sleep and meals, as well as ensuring you stay well hydrated and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.

Cannabis medicines have been found by certain patients to be incredibly helpful in the management of pain.

Dr Anthony Ordman, senior clinical adviser and hon. clinical director of Integro Clinics explains why: “Recent medical scientific research is showing that cannabis medicines can have several useful roles in the prevention of migraine, and also reducing pain if a migraine attack does occur.

“It is likely that substances in cannabis medicines (plant-derived CBD, THC and terpenes) all have roles to play and that they supplement the activity of the brain’s naturally occurring endocannabinoid system. This system may be under-active in people prone to migraine.

“There are three likely mechanisms by which cannabis medicines may be effective. Firstly, the natural stabilising or anticonvulsant effect of the cannabinoids suppresses the spreading abnormal wave of voltage depression in the brain’s cortical neurones. This wave precedes all migraine attacks and causes the aura familiar to migraine sufferers.

“Secondly, cannabis substances are thought to stabilise the mast cells of the immune system. In migraine, mast cells are involved in dilatation, or opening up of the blood vessels of the brain’s lining (dura), causing that familiar pulsating headache. Cannabis medicines may prevent this process from occurring.

He adds: “And finally, as in other painful conditions, if a migraine does occur, cannabis medicines are likely to block the transmission of pain messages in nerves running from the brain stem to the pain centres of the brain, to reduce pain itself.

A recent study showed that cannabinoids may reduce migraine severity by 49.6 percent without causing the ‘overuse headache,’ that other pain medicines such as paracetamol may cause.”

The patient’s story

Mike is a physically fit 37-year-old South African, who first experienced migraines as a teenager.

The pain he suffered was agonising and totally debilitating. It disturbed his vision, caused nausea and deep pain. Prior to the onset he experienced the aura of lights and would go blind in one eye.

An attack could wipe out days of his life whilst he recovered. For several days after the attack, he would feel befuddled and that his brain was not working properly.

Initially he looked into what could be causing the migraines worrying that he might have a brain tumour, but MRI scans thankfully showed that this was not the case. It was through luck and circumstance he stumbled upon cannabis as a medicine for his condition.

Mike was out playing golf in the hot sun and he became dehydrated. He felt the first symptoms of the headache begin so he paused for a rest under a tree and smoked some cannabis.

Instantly, he felt the pain begin to recede and he knew he had found a solution to his condition. He also wanted to point out that he was able to finish his round of golf and win. He came to the realisation that dehydration and hot sun were his major triggers.

Using cannabis would also mean that when a migraine did come it would last for a much shorter period of time and there was none of the post attack brain fog.

“I cannot recommend medical cannabis highly enough as treatment for migraine,” says Mike.

“It addresses all of the symptoms of the loss of vision, nausea and deep pain by addressing the inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain.”

Dr Ordman adds: “Integro Medical Clinics always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.”

If you would like further information, or to make an appointment for a medical consultation, please contact us at Integro Clinics:

Website: www.integroclinics.com
Email: Contact@integroclinics.com
Twitter: @clinicsintegro

Further help and support can be found at the following patient charities:

https://www.migrainetrust.org/ @MigraineTrust

https://www.nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk/ @NatMigraineCtr

https://headachemigraine.org/connect-with-others/ @CoalitionCHAMP

https://painuk.org/members/charities/migraine-trust/ @Pain_UK

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Health

Study: Is CBD the future of chronic bladder pain treatment?

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"Cannabinoids prevent the activation of your pain-sensing neurons"

A first-of-its-kind study using human donors is examining the potential of CBD for treating chronic bladder pain. Cannabis Health speaks to the scientist leading the research.

Chronic pain is an oppressive human health problem that affects millions worldwide. In 2011 alone, the direct and indirect costs of chronic pain were at $600 billion dollars in the USA. This outweighs the costs related to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined.

Among these patients are the nearly eight million women and four million men suffering from interstitial cystitis (IC), commonly referred to as chronic bladder pain.

The symptoms of this chronic disease include pelvic pain and urinary storage dysfunctions, which can severely impact quality of life.

There are currently no adequate treatments for people with chronic bladder pain and scientists say new therapeutic approaches are desperately needed to not only prevent pain but also address co-morbidities such as social isolation, depression and anxiety.

A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabinoids could be the answer for treating chronic pain and inflammation. And as the research effort increases, the formulation of novel cannabinoid formulations progresses alongside it.

One of these formulations, developed by Desert Harvest Inc., packages cannabidiol with aloe vera to increase the bioavailability of CBD by 25 per cent.

As with most areas of CBD research, evidence regarding its efficacy is limited, however, a new collaborative study between Desert Harvest and the McGill University Research Centre for Cannabis in Montreal hopes to change this.

The two-phase study aims to validate whether the CBD and aloe vera formulation could alleviate the pain symptoms in a preclinical model of IC.

Dr. Reza Sharif-Naeini

Dr. Reza Sharif-Naeini who leads the study said: “For the past 20 years or so, there hasn’t really been any development of new therapeutic drugs for patients with chronic pain.

“By partnering with industry colleagues, we’re trying to accelerate the speed to market for these analgesics so that the patients can benefit from them.

The first phase of the study involved a rodent model in which mice were administered a compound that metabolises acrolein in the liver.

The compound then accumulated in the bladder causing tissue damage. The symptoms are similar to human IC, including bladder inflammation, pain and bladder overactivity.

Initial data from the study are encouraging. The researchers demonstrated treatment with the cannabidiol-aloe vera formulation significantly reduced pain symptoms.

“Although we only tested it for seven days, it was enough for us to see a significant reduction in bladder pain experienced by these animals,” Dr Sharif Naeini said.

“It is a very important and exciting discovery.

“The next step for us is to start testing these compounds on human pain neurons to determine whether the effects can be translated to humans.”

The second phase of the study, expected to begin within the next month, will involve testing the effect of cannabidiol on neurons obtained from deceased human donors.

Dr Sharif-Naemi explained: “We’ve partnered with surgeons in local hospitals, so as soon as a donor dies the nervous tissue, including the pain-sensing neurons, can be harvested and kept alive in a small dish for about two weeks.

“[We] can assess the function of these pain neurons and see what happens when we apply these cannabinoid drugs to them.

“This way, we’ll be able to tell directly whether these compounds would have a beneficial effect on humans.”

The pain transmission pathway can be broken down into three steps. First are pain-sensing cells in the ‘periphery’, such as the skin or, in this case, the bladder. These nerve fibres detect the pain stimulus and transfer the information to the spinal cord.

At the spinal cord, pain transmitting neurons take information up the spine and into the brain where the third step takes place. This final step is referred to as pain interpretation.

“Cannabinoids can affect either one of these steps or all three of them together,” Dr Sharif-Naeini added.

“We think that in the periphery, cannabinoids prevent the activation of your pain-sensing neurons. This means that your nervous system doesn’t even detect the pain inflammation; it is not allowed to enter into your central nervous system.

“This is what we’re going to test in the second phase of these studies.”

Sadly, current pharmacological treatments for chronic pain, mainly opioids, are burdened with severe side effects. A rise in opioid prescription over the past decade has led to what is referred to as the opioid epidemic.

Although not a primary factor, the treatment of chronic pain is thought to be linked to this crisis.

“The absence of proper pain management is one of the contributing factors that led us to the opioid epidemic in America, so there’s really a push to develop new treatments,” Dr Sharif Naeini said.

“There are people doing opioid research to come up with better ways of eliminating the side effects of opioids, but eventually we’re going to come to a place where maybe we have gotten all that we can out of drugs, and we need new alternatives.

Dr Sharif-Naeini believes that cannabinoids could be a future alternative.

“Cannabinoids are an alternative with high potential. The more studies that are done, the more people can make informed decisions about what [medication] they take for their pain.

“Every time more research comes out it’s great because it allows us to better understand how the cannabinoid system functions.

“The hope is that we can develop better tools that will allow us to reduce pain in some of these intractable chronic pain syndromes, without necessarily affecting the patient’s functioning and cognitive capacity.”

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