How to Talk to Your Doctor About CBD

CBD has been shown to be effective in treating a vast range of ailments, from dementia to multiple sclerosis to even cancer, and it’s growing in popularity with each passing year. CBD carries virtually no potential for abuse and does not cause addiction or dependence, making it an especially attractive alternative for people taking a variety of prescription drugs, especially opioids.

Despite its ever-expanding use among patients, CBD hasn’t been embraced by the medical community with the same enthusiasm. While unsurprising (medical practice tends to run years behind current research), this presents a challenge for patients seeking to supplement or replace their current pharmaceutical regimen with CBD, as it makes having an honest and informative conversation about CBD with your doctor difficult.

CBD In Your Area

While hemp-derived CBD is legal in all fifty US states, it’s still a potentially sensitive subject in the medical community. Medical practice tends to run about 17 years behind current research, meaning there’s a lag between when research scientists reach a conclusion and when that conclusion is adopted by common medical practice. Doctors, as a group, tend not to be early adopters—while some CBD providers are working with pain management clinics to ease patients off of opioids, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Additionally, there has been some confusion about the legality of CBD, making some physicians reluctant to discuss it with their patients.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a state where medical cannabis is available, or if you have a particularly research-savvy doctor, that’s wonderful! If you’re not so blessed, don’t despair: we’re here to help you navigate this conversation, making it as easy as possible. We’ll help you prepare yourself, teach you the questions to ask, and talk about potential drug interactions to discuss with your doctor. We’ll also lay out a fallback plan, in the event that your doctor can’t (or won’t) help you.

Remember, doctors are humans just like we are, and they may not have all the answers you’re looking for. In that case, you can seek a second opinion, beef up your research game, seek advice from other patients, or any combination thereof. Don’t give up — your health is worth fighting for!

Before the Appointment: Preparing to Talk to Your Doctor

Before you go into the appointment, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to say to your doctor. Why do you want to take CBD? Are you experiencing problems or side effects with your current medication that you’d like to be rid of? What symptoms do you want to help alleviate: anxiety? Chronic pain? Muscle spasms? Multiple symptoms? Something else? Do you have any concerns or questions about using CBD? You’ll need to communicate your goals clearly to your doctor, so that you can work together to achieve them safely.

You’ll also want to really do your research beforehand, making yourself as knowledgeable as possible. There are a number of studies available for free online from academic journals (be sure to check your sources!), but they can be kind of…dense. If you’re looking for a readable breakdown of the science of CBD by condition, check out our free case studies to outline how CBD can help your symptoms, as well as an appendix full of sources for further reading. You can even take these case studies with you to the appointment to support yourself.

If you’re looking to replace your current medication with CBD, you’ll also need to prepare to discuss how to taper off your existing prescription. This means doing even more research, as your doctor may honestly not know how exactly to taper you off. If you do some research on the subject, you’ll see why—there’s just not a lot out there in the scientific literature, and medical schools certainly don’t focus on it. Very few medications, even those with well-established withdrawal risks, have established tapering protocols.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule to tapering schedules, and you’ll need to be prepared to work with your doctor throughout the process in order to taper safely. For more information on preparing to taper, check out our CBD ebook, which covers the basics of tapering and how to avoid withdrawal symptoms with caution and CBD.

During the Appointment: What to Say

You’ve prepared yourself, you’ve done your research, you’ve scheduled the appointment, and now the time has come to talk to your doctor. Don’t stress! For starters, you’re not doing anything illegal by asking your doctor about CBD, and your doctor isn’t breaking the law by advising you about it. Furthermore, thanks to the very recent FDA approval of the drug Epidiolex (a pharmaceutical cannabidiol intended to treat seizures), doctors can now advise you on use of a pharmaceutical CBD (as opposed to one available over the counter), if you — or they — prefer.

Be direct and honest when you speak to your doctor; don’t get cagey or anxious. Remember, there’s nothing to be nervous about! Your doctor is much more likely to be willing to at least try to help you if you’re upfront with them, so state your reasons and goals clearly and respectfully. You can address any side effects your medication is causing and discuss how to go about tapering off your dose.

Your doctor may need to prescribe a different form of your current medication in order for you to begin tapering, such as tablets or syrups as opposed to capsules or softgels, so ask about this during the conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You’ve done plenty of research up to this point, but your doctor may be able to provide valuable insight or context for something unclear from your research, so if you’ve got something to say, say it!

You’ll also need to discuss any potential interactions that CBD might have with your current medication. We’ll discuss these in more detail in a moment, but it’s worth mentioning here as well. Keep in mind that an interaction doesn’t necessarily mean a negative consequence, but every drug is different and you’ll need to know what to watch out for in the event of an adverse interaction (exceedingly rare, but not impossible). Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking and plan accordingly.

After the Appointment: Continue to Monitor

You did it!  You talked to your doctor, and things went well. You created a plan to taper off your current pharmaceuticals and replace them with organic, full-spectrum CBD. That’s fantastic!  However, the journey isn’t over yet.

You’ll need to continue to keep in touch with your doctor, reporting any withdrawal symptoms to them and keeping them abreast of your condition. You may also need to do things like take blood tests or return for checkups, so be sure to keep those appointments. If you’re fortunate enough to have your doctor in your corner during this process, that’s wonderful and you should take full advantage of that blessing.

Now, let’s say your appointment didn’t go so well. Perhaps your doctor doesn’t feel confident in their knowledge of cannabinoids to advise you on their use, or maybe they don’t know how to help you taper off your current medications. Perhaps they simply aren’t willing to help you, for reasons that are their own. Whatever the reason, don’t worry. Of course it’s preferable to make any health decision under your doctor’s supervision, but your health is fully in your hands and you—and only you—have the final say on what you do with your body.

You can still use CBD to replace your medications, but you will need to be especially careful. Read absolutely everything you can about tapering off your medication beforehand, know what to expect if you experience withdrawal, and—this is key—should withdrawal symptoms arise, restore yourself to the previous dose. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be stuck here; after a few days at the previous dose, try to decrease your dose again, this time at a lower increment. Slow and low is key to successful tapering, and it’s okay if it’s not a perfectly linear process for you.

Whatever you do, don’t quit cold-turkey! Not only can withdrawals be debilitating and last for over a month, discontinuation syndrome (a more clinical way of describing withdrawal symptoms) can even be fatal in some cases. Take your time, listen to your body, and be patient. Take good care of your physical and mental health during this time. Make good lifestyle choices and consider your health from a holistic perspective. For further reading on the power of CBD to help ease your transition and treat your symptoms, check out our CBD ebook.

A Note On Drug Interactions

CBD, like any other compound, has the potential to interact with your body’s processing of other substances. While it’s considered one of the safest substances you could possibly be taking, there’s one particular mechanism it affects that can potentially interact with a variety of substances. Keep in mind that interaction doesn’t mean catastrophic issue—this section isn’t meant to scare you, it’s meant to inform you of all possibilities, however remote. Talk to your doctor before making your decision if you’re worried about drug interactions.

CBD inhibits the activity of an enzyme called cytochrome P450, which is responsible for metabolizing many of the compounds you put in your body, including about 60% of the drugs you consume. When CBD slows down the activity of this enzyme, it takes it longer to do its job. This can raise the level of a drug in your system, as well as extend the length of time it takes your body to process it. Drugs that can be affected by CBD include:

  • Anesthetics
  • Antiarrhythmics
  • Angiotensin II blockers
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-epileptics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • HMG CoA reductase inhibitors
  • HIV antivirals
  • Immune modulators
  • NSAID pain relievers
  • Oral hypoglycemic agents
  • PPIs
  • Prokinetics
  • Steroids
  • Sulfonylureas

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but it should give you a good idea of what to look out for to discuss with your doctor.  When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

A Quick Note About Drug Testing

Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception.  There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, and the ones available paint a rather murky picture:  avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely.  A single study (as yet unconfirmed) suggests that even isolate-based products may not be completely risk-free under certain circumstances.

If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you’ll need to consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. To learn more about the science of CBD and drug testing, check out our article for a more thorough discussion of how to minimize your risk of a false positive.

Conclusion

Talking about CBD with your doctor can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! You aren’t doing anything wrong or illegal, and you aren’t asking them to either. Go in well-informed, bringing notes with you if you like, and be open and candid with them about what you’re looking for.  If they’re receptive, wonderful! But if not, it’s not the end of the world—you can still use CBD. You won’t overdose, you won’t get addicted, and you won’t become tolerant of it. For further reading on how CBD can benefit your health, take a look through our free CBD case studies and check out our CBD ebook.

Why CBD Helps You Get Off Pharmaceuticals

If you’ve done any research into CBD, you’ve likely heard it touted as a miracle compound with uses in medical applications ranging from chronic pain to epilepsy to even cancer.  While we’re firm believers in the necessity of further scientific research on CBD and other cannabinoids, preliminary studies, combined with the stories of thousands of patients, are compelling—CBD has been known for decades to be a potent antioxidant (a compound with cancer-fighting properties), and recent research has shown it to effectively treat a variety of symptoms.

The reason CBD is so effective against so many conditions is its anti-inflammatory action. Think about it: inflammation is the root of a variety of conditions, from type II diabetes to heart disease to epilepsy, and treating that inflammation can help alleviate symptoms. CBD also has analgesic (pain-relieving) and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, broadening its potential applications to cover a wide variety of illnesses. This is all great news, as it means that it is possible to replace your pharmaceutical regimen with CBD!

That said, CBD has another added benefit that is less well-known: it helps stave off the symptoms of medication withdrawal. This makes it an especially good choice for those seeking to get off the pharmaceutical roller coaster, as it can help ease the transition when discontinuing your medications. Today, we want to discuss the science of how CBD alleviates withdrawal symptoms, and how you can use it to get yourself off of pharmaceuticals, many of which carry the potential to cause undesirable side effects, including addiction and dependence.

How CBD Acts On the Body

CBD works naturally with your endocannabinoid system, which is a system of two different types of receptors (called CB1 and CB2, though scientists suspect there may be one or more other types that have yet to be discovered. There are also other cannabinoid receptors that do not bind to THC (which we’ll discuss in more detail in a moment) working together to help regulate your body and maintain homeostasis. A term originating from the Greek homio meaning “stable” or “equal,” homeostasis refers to the stable, natural condition of your body in a relaxed state. CBD helps stimulate the endocannabinoid system to support this state, bringing your body closer to homeostasis and soothing a variety of bodily systems.

The Science of CBD at a Molecular Level

CBD is interesting in that it doesn’t directly act on either the CB1 or CB2 receptor. Instead, it acts on a variety of other cannabinoid receptors like TRPV-1, adenosine, and serotonin receptors to regulate the systems of the body. This sounds complex, but we’ll explain what each of these actions mean in practice.

The TRPV-1 receptor regulates things like body temperature, pain perception, and inflammation, and is responsible for many of the primary effects of CBD. CBD binds to this receptor like a lock to a key, stimulating it and helping regulate these symptoms.

CBD’s action on adenosine receptors is especially interesting: not only does its action on the receptor help reduce both anxiety and inflammation, but the adenosine receptor itself is involved in the production of glutamate and dopamine. Dopamine is a familiar compound that is involved in motor control, cognition, and motivation, while glutamate mediates excitatory signals and is involved in memory, learning, and cognition.

Now, directly to our point: CBD acts on serotonin receptors—specifically the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which is involved in a variety of systems, including pain perception, nausea, appetite, anxiety, sleep and, most importantly for today’s purposes, addiction circuits.  Stimulation of this receptor can help alleviate some of the physical symptoms of withdrawal, as well as soothing the neurons involved in the addiction pathway created by many pharmaceuticals.

Using CBD to Help Get Off Pharmaceuticals

Studies so far have shown that it takes a fairly high dose of CBD to stimulate the 5-HT1A receptor, so you may need to take a higher dose while you’re tapering than you might otherwise in order to keep withdrawals at bay. That’s okay! Unlike pharmaceuticals, CBD doesn’t require you to wean yourself off, so you can always decrease your dose when you’re out of the withdrawal period.

While CBD can work nearly instantaneously depending on the method you use to take it, it is most effective when used over time. This is why we recommend starting your CBD regimen and finding a comfortable dose, then maintaining that for at least two weeks before you begin your chosen tapering program. This will allow the CBD to act as a preventive for withdrawals while also giving you the flexibility to adjust your dose if necessary.

A Quick Note About Types of Withdrawal

Before we close, we need to discuss the nature of withdrawal symptoms, the types of withdrawal periods, and how to adjust your tapering schedule if you feel withdrawal symptoms coming on. First, you need to know what to expect from discontinuing your particular medication: some withdrawal symptoms, like those from opioids, are fairly well-known, while others, like the “brain zaps” associated with withdrawal from some antidepressants, are less well-understood and can be very disconcerting if you don’t know what they are. Furthermore, some medications, particularly psychotropics, have a notoriously long withdrawal period, and riding it out may not be feasible or healthy.

While increasing your dose of CBD can be helpful in treating your symptoms, don’t rule out temporarily restoring your pharmaceutical dose before trying tapering again, this time at a lower increment. Tapering safely may not be a perfectly linear process, and that’s okay! Try using CBD to help ease your withdrawal symptoms, but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work for you or your withdrawals are too severe and you have to temporarily restore your dose. It doesn’t make you weak or less determined to discontinue these medications, and eventually you will succeed. Listen to your body and treat yourself with kindness during this time, and the rest will come. We’ve written a comprehensive CBD eBook designed to make this process even easier for you!

A Note on Drug Testing

Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception.  There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, and the ones available paint a rather murky picture:  avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely.  A single study (as yet unconfirmed) suggests that even isolate-based products may not be completely risk-free under certain circumstances.

If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you’ll need to consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. To learn more about the science of CBD and drug testing, check out our article for a more thorough discussion of how to minimize your risk of a false positive.

Conclusion

CBD can treat withdrawal symptoms at a variety of levels by acting on multiple different cannabinoid receptors, alleviating not just the physical symptoms of withdrawal but also soothing the circuits underlying addiction. Since it carries no potential for abuse, addiction, or overdose and can be applied to a vast array of medical conditions, CBD is a viable and attractive option for many patients looking to abandon the pharmaceutical carousel.

A Medical Doctor Weighs in on the Benefits of CBD

A Medical Doctor Weighs in on the Benefits of CBD

Dr. Kevin Frey, MD specializes in Internal Medicine in Canton, Ohio. and received his medical degree from Northeast Ohio Medical University after completing his residency at the Mayo Clinic. The CBDistillery™ partners with Dr. Kevin Frey, MD in order to educate consumers on the science of CBD and its potential to improve well-being and we’re excited to have the chance to hear from him directly and share it with you.

Who are you and how did you get started in medicine?

I am an internal medicine physician from Ohio. I first became interested in medicine because I wanted to help people feel and live better. I also love the intellectual challenges that the field of medicine brings to the table. It’s like being a consulting detective like Sherlock Holmes. You have to pay attention to very small details to solve a larger puzzle. It can be very exciting.

At what point in your career did you realize that CBD had medical efficacy?

It all started just by listening to my patient’s stories over the past few years. After a while, I heard enough positive stories from my patients that I felt that there must be some truth behind their experiences. I decided to research the literature myself and was pleasantly surprised by what I read.

Most traditionally trained M.D.’s won’t publicly voice their support for CBD, what made you decide to take that risk?

I don’t think it is a risk at all. Part of being a good doctor is paying attention to the evidence and modifying your practice accordingly. If there are potential treatments out there that can help my patients, I want to make sure I am aware of all available options. Not supporting CBD in light of the current evidence would be irresponsible and unscientific.

What do you typically prescribe/recommend CBD for?

Unfortunately, given my current relationship with The CBDistillery, I can’t make any medical claims as to what CBD can be used for. However, I would assume the conditions that could be helped by CBD mirror many of medical cannabis indications in most states that allow it.

Is there anyone that should/shouldn’t use CBD?

This is a very personalized decision that patients should have with their doctor. I think it can be a good supplement to any medical regimen, but at this point I would hesitate to make it first line therapy until larger randomized controlled trials can be performed.

Is CBD safe? Are there any side effects? Can you overdose?

Yes. The world health organization (WHO) published an statement on the safety of CBD recently. They felt that it was a safe compound with no potential for abuse.  There have been no reported cases of overdoses. Side effects are mild, but can happen at higher dosages. These can include dry mouth, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure.

How should someone seeking relief consume CBD?

There are many different methods of administration, including: capsules, tinctures, salve, and by vaporizing. Higher dosages are best taken orally.

How much CBD should patients take?

This is highly variable for each person. I’d recommend starting low and gradually titrating upwards until the desired outcome is achieved.

Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up regarding CBD?

While it does come from cannabis, it does not cause any clinical intoxicating effects. It is also nonaddictive.

Is there anything patients should look for when purchasing CBD?

Reputable companies will test their products for purity in third party laboratories and publish these results on their website. If you don’t see this, run.