North Texas

Science Still Far Behind CBD Craze in North Texas

Researchers say they have a hard time finding CBD to test to authenticate society's findings

Chances are you've either heard about or tried a product with CBD -- or cannabidiol -- the natural chemical found in the cannabis plant which, unlike THC, doesn't get you high.

Ever since state lawmakers passed up a law in July, clearing up the gray area around CBD, products from CBD-infused lotions to pet treats have filled store shelves, but what does science have to say about the therapeutic claims of CBD?

Not very much, according to researchers.

CBD products are marketed to relieve stress, reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, help with muscle or joint pain and relieve other ailments.
Many users swear by it, so it's no surprise the CBD market is expected to reach $5 billion this year, according market reports.

Linda Thaten, of Denton, opened up one of the first CBD stores in North Texas four years ago after she said it helped both her and members of her family.

"My husband had an old tendon injury. My daughter suffered from migraine headaches," said Thaten. "I was getting CBD and giving it to everyone who would take it and saw the results. That was huge."

Now, with three CBD stores in Denton and Tarrant counties, Thaten and her daughter offer way more than just CBD oil.

Products include CBD-infused coffee, CBD candies, soap, nuts, dog treats, even bottled water.

"People are so much more aware of going natural, what they can get out of foods and supplements versus looking toward pharmaceutical drugs," said Thaten.

Researchers don't know the exact mechanisms that happen when CBD is taken, but said it does react with different receptors in your body.

It's been proven effective for treating a severe form of epilepsy and in 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first CBD treatment for seizures.

Researchers also said that's about all they know at this point.

"We don't have data on any of the other indications. We don't know what else it works for. We don't know at what dose, how it should be administered. We don't know an awful lot of about CBD. Society has jumped far ahead of what we know as scientists," said Professor of Neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center Dr. Margaret Haney.

Haney is a leading cannabis researcher launching a study into the use of CBD for breast cancer pain.

"I'm very uncomfortable with how it's being marketed everywhere to cure absolutely everything," said Haney, who adds that obtaining cannabis for research purposes has been extremely difficult.

CBD is currently a Schedule I substance because it is a chemical component of the cannabis plant.

"As a scientist, I don't have a source of CBD right now and I don't trust what's being sold at your local grocery store," said Haney. "We need CBD that is FDA approved and right now in the U.S., we don't have a source to study it."

While science is working to catch up to the CBD craze, Haney said there's another factor that may be fueling its popularity: the placebo effect.

"When all of society is telling you that this product is going to help you feel relaxed or help you fall asleep or take away your aches and pains, the placebo affect is tremendously powerful. It's real. It's has a neurobiological affect and it's influenced by what society says," said Haney.

Still, testimonials from CBD users are hard to ignore.

They've caught the attention of The National Institutes of Health, which is funding nine different CBD studies, into areas like how it might help patients with arthritis or nueropathic pain.

David Shurtleff, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at NIH told NBC 5 that if they find that CBD can, in fact, relieve pain, they may be able to create safer alternatives to opioids.

"We believe that cannabinoids are one path forward to developing new pain treatments," said Shurtleff.

If you are curious about the craze, both researchers warn that this is an unregulated industry, therefore what you see on the label, may not be what's in the bottle.

Some products may contain a small, legal amount of THC, which could show up on a drug test.

Both researchers said, currently, there doesn't appear to be any negative side effects from using CBD.

Thaten said she tells her customers to do their own research into products and brands.

"When you do find a product, ask for third-party testing. That's very important because that will show you what's in that product," said Thaten, who's about to open a fourth store in Richardson, as she leaps further into an industry that has no signs of slowing down.

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