CBD oil and related products have become something of a trend in the last few years. Heralded by its proponents as a miracle cure, viewed by others as effective pain relief, and derided by opponents as being quasi-medical at best, CBD is an emerging market with many predicting big things. However, there are still regulatory obstacles and issues with consumer perception to overcome before cannabidiol is fully embraced.
Public awareness of CBD is still developing and as such it needs to clear several hurdles. Consumers and lawmakers must believe that it is both safe and effective and, at first at least, the market will be susceptible to shocks than traditional products.
Research conducted by FMCG Gurus in 2019, which compiled the results from 25 countries, found that 37% of consumers in Europe said they’d be willing to use CBD products and only 43% thought they should be legal. The main concerns cited by consumers were regarding potential side effects. There is also still much scepticism about claimed medical benefits, and a general lack of knowledge on the subject, as well as several other worries over societal or health implications.
Consumer insights gleaned from the research appeared to suggest that, while fears over potential side-effects are fairly common for new supplements, the case of CBD was made more complicated by existing connotations of cannabis and cannabis use. Despite having it pointed out that cannabis and CBD are not the same thing, it appears that the general public still needs more convincing but retains an open mind with 42% saying they may give it a chance if they had more information.
One of the other issues that hinders public perception is the difficulty in proving the medical benefits espoused by CBD enthusiasts. The strongest evidence is in its effectiveness in treating epilepsy in children including Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, which are largely unresponsive to traditional antiseizure medications. In 2018, the FDA in the US gave its approval to antiseizure medication Epidiolex – the first time it has done so for a drug in which CBD is an active ingredient.
CBD is also commonly used to address anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. Early research has looked at its efficacy in treating mental health issues including schizophrenia, psychosis and bipolar disorder, and some early research claims it can be beneficial for sufferers of Crohn disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. There have also been studies that point to uses in quitting smoking and for those undergoing withdrawal from opioid drugs such as morphine and heroin.
For each of these potential uses, CBD’s main problem is a lack of in-depth medical studies backing up the claims, itself a consequence of the product’s confusing legal position in many countries. In the UK, CBD is legal, and no licence is required to sell it, provided no THC - the active ingredient in cannabis that makes recreational users “stoned” – is detected. Authorities in the UK are generally taking a soft stance on enforcement, meaning it’s not uncommon to see prohibited products like CBD flowers being sold openly in shops.
In the EU, each member state has its own laws. In the US, legality relates to whether the CBD comes from marijuana or hemp, and the law also changes from state to state, though it is expected that the legality of the substance is set to change.
For now, many medical experts are advising that potential users proceed with caution. While CBD could yet enormous potential for a range of health conditions, there is still much research to be done. Aside from the issue of ensuring that what you buy is what it claims to be, not enough is known about how it interacts with other drugs, or indeed, if CBD “works” at all.
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