Editor’s Note: In the second part of our series of first-person accounts about CBD oil, author Haddayr Copley-Woods explains how she learned to research CBD oil. In the previous installment, Annalise Mabe told us about using CBD for Crohn’s disease. -KO
“You’ve turned into a filthy hippy,” my son told me as I drove him to school yesterday morning. “You think weed cures everything.”
“I don’t think it cures everything,” I said.
“And,” I added with the enormous dignity appropriate to my age and station in life (48, crippled, insane, living paycheck-to-paycheck), “I’m too young to be a hippy. Also, it’s not weed. It’s hemp.”
“It’s the same plant,” he said with obnoxious adolescent assurance.
“No, it isn’t,” I said.
“It’s a different strain, but the same plant,” he said, rolling his eyes. Moms don’t know anything.
“No, it isn’t — infinity plus one,” I said.
“Okay,” he said, getting out of the car, “but there is no such thing as infinity plus one. And maybe look it up. Ya damned hippy.”
HOW TO RESEARCH CBD WHEN YOU DON’T LIKE MARIJUANA
So that’s how I wound up writing YOU WERE RIGHT I WAS WRONG on the Facebook page he only keeps to humor me a few days later.
Same species: “cannabis sativa,” different strain.
Because I’m now using CBD oil regularly, it was SO important to me that it not be the same. Because, you see, my mom was actually a hippy. And years ago, when a traitorous sister told her that I’d tried pot, she called me on the pay phone at my college dorm, weeping with joy. “You know,” she said. “Now you understand.”
“I was stoned,” I said. “I understand that I was stoned.”
And I hung up on her.
See, my mom likes to feel altered. While pot is what she thought made me Deep and understand the Mysteries of the Universe, she mainly prefers alcohol.
Related: I have complex PTSD from a rough childhood. And I HATE feeling out of control in any way. When your childhood feels like one big mess you’re endlessly failing to clean up, and the adults are so out of control that you feel that you have to create order yourself (but you have no skills to do it), when you experience gaslighting so thorough that you can’t even trust your own instincts or memories — you sometimes become a control freak.
Well, I did, at any rate.
The feeling I got the first time I tried pot: that I couldn’t control the hysterical laughter, like I couldn’t trust my eyes or my thoughts or my sensations — it was far too familiar of a feeling.
I don’t want to feel that way ever again.
Not a hippy. Not by a long shot.
WHY I NEEDED CBD: HOW I GOT MYSELF INTO THIS
The accident happened so slowly that I was able to think: “I’ll bet this is going to be fun to watch,” before I fell.
I was biking illegally on US Bank Plaza in downtown Minneapolis, like you do, looking around for an address which wound up being (duh) the US Bank Building. I was biking so slowly I could barely stay upright, keeping my eyes peeled for pedestrians and craning my neck at addresses, which is why I missed the very short yet very solid concrete driving barrier directly in front of me.
“Huh,” I thought. “I’m going to crash. Maybe I should put down my foot or brake or something.”
Instead, I hit the barrier with a delicate bump that could hardly be called a crash and then verrrrryyyyy slooooooooow w w w w lyyyyy fell to the ground, twisting so that I fell on my back.
I lay there for a while, contemplating my folly and looking up at the beautiful blue sky with perfect puffy cartoon clouds framed by skyscrapers.
“Wow,” I said aloud. “Wow. Even for me, that was impressive. Wow wow wow.”
Very soon, a small group of people surrounded me, asking if I were all right.
“If you have some liniment.” I quoted from the classic science fiction novel “A Wrinkle in Time” as I scrambled out from under the bicycle and onto my feet, then continued, “I’ll put it on my dignity. I think it’s sprained.”
I have this quote well in-hand not only because I am a giant nerd but also because I fall down in public a LOT. In addition to PTSD, I have a mobility disorder, and I love to bike, and I apparently make bad decisions.
“Well,” said a man whose outstretched hand I’d declined as I rose, “It was a very graceful fall!”
See? I told you. Fun to watch.
HOW LINGERING PAIN LEAD ME TO RESEARCH CBD
I could tell I had a very minor concussion (my Very Storied Past has made me a connoisseur of concussions) based on the sort of pixelated overly-bright world around me. My butt hurt.
After sitting down on a hard plastic chair for three hours of instruction, I requested a standing desk at work.
After a while, I was rocking and letting out teeny tiny moans much like I had years ago when in the early stages of labor.
So I took some Advil and Tylenol, which are the drugs I used to combat my post-C-section pain sixteen years ago because I hated the experience of Vicodin so much. Anyway, they were enough. I am not macho about this; I just have a very high pain tolerance. Usually, they take care of anything life can throw at me.
This time, they didn’t even make a dent in my pain.
“I’m friends with a lot of potheads, and they love me very much and want to help.”
My doctor, who is excellent, told me to ice it, referred me to physical therapy, and sent me home. (We had already rejected opiates — she knows my background and my need to feel alert at all times. Hypervigilance, they call it.)
So I asked friends for pain control advice.
DANG I’m friends with a lot of potheads, and they love me very much and want to help.
“Do your research!” Everything I read told me.
So, first I turned to the experts.
WHAT MEDICAL EXPERTS SAY ABOUT CBD OIL
Does CBD oil help anxiety?
Cincinnati-area psychiatrist Andrew Nachum Klafter, MD, HATES pot.
“Marijuana is a terrible drug for your brain,” he says. “Absolutely awful. It saps all your motivation. It’s incredibly addictive. It messes up your brain really badly.”
Except he didn’t say ‘messes.’
“It’s figuring out what’s going to work for you. When it comes to ways to helping people feel better, why wouldn’t we want to do that?”
And yet, Klafter feels differently about CBD oil. Some patients tell him that it helps with anxiety. “There aren’t good studies on efficacy,” he says, “but the studies I have seen have convinced me that CBD oil, assuming that’s what they are buying, is probably relatively safe.”
St. Louis Park-based Kathleen Mathews, LICSW, is also concerned about her patient’s safety, and has found online research bewildering.
“That said, I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence that it’s something that I probably will suggest to some people with sleep issues, PTSD, and anxiety,” says Mathews.
She is quick to say she doesn’t believe it’s a miracle cure.
“I know it doesn’t work for everyone. But (psychiatric) meds don’t work for everybody. It’s figuring out what’s going to work for you. When it comes to ways to helping people feel better, why wouldn’t we want to do that?”
Does CBD Oil help pain?
Since my primary concern at first was pain, I turned to a family practice doc to talk about that.
“I have heard from patients that the use of cannabidiol is somewhat effective for pain relief and anxiety,” says Minneapolis doctor Jared Frandson, MD, “so I have suggested that patients could seek this out as an alternative to medical cannabis from a dispensary … which is very expensive.”
Outside of this specific application, Frandson is not so sure about recommending it to clients. “There are few large randomized trials on cannabidiol and the ones that I’ve seen are relatively small and have mixed results,” he says.
How much CBD Oil should I take?
Because the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, Frandson also doesn’t know where to tell his patients to get quality CBD oil or how much they should take — although one interesting study suggests that a middling dose rather than a very high or very low one is best for anxiety.
Why aren’t there large studies on CBD oil?
“I think the larger barrier is the fact that it’s still considered a Schedule I controlled substance,” says Frandson.
Outside of one very narrow and recent exception to this rule, this designation places hemp and CBD in the same category as drugs such as heroin and meth, and puts a near halt to most studies in the U.S. Applying for permission has been extremely cumbersome if not impossible over the past decades.
Part of Frandson and Klafter’s worries are about whether or not their patients are getting actual CBD oil. “I would want to have some reassurance that the product itself is what it says it is and that it is pure,” says Frandson.
MEDICAL EXPERTS ON THE FUTURE OF CBD
Andrew Klafter can see a future for CBD oil-derived pharmaceuticals for anxiety and PTSD.
“I’m confident that sometime in the next ten years we will see FDA-approved medications,” he says.
There are a few reasons for that.
First, the DEA has attempted to smooth its application process for large research institutions seeking to study Schedule I Drugs as of January of this year. Due to the popularity of CBD oil and explosion of the industry, it’s hard to imagine Big Pharma won’t salivate over that market.
Second, the DEA’s exception-to-the-rule approval of a CBD-based medication has opened the door to more companies getting this exception. Knowing that it’s possible to make a profit is going to be enticing.
Third, America is just getting fed up with the illegalization of cannabis. State after state is flouting the federal law, and it seems only a matter of time before the ban is lifted completely.
So if you prefer your medicines to be pharmaceutical, in ten years you just might be in luck.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t prefer my medicines to be pharmaceutical. While I think there is a time and a place for the Medicine Industrial Complex (namely: emergency care, birth control, antibiotics, and vaccinations), a lot of this distillation and studying and patenting and distributing sounds a lot like barring me from what will help me NOW.
And even Frandson and Klafter, both MDs who are heavily invested in Western Medicine, suggest that people try CBD now, because they are both convinced at the very least that it is safe.
I get acupuncture for tendonitis and depression and I take goldenseal tincture to prevent colds, I use slippery elm bark for sore throats and dandelion root for bloating. I figured all of this stuff out without help from drug companies, and I found I could research CBD oil and safely try it without them, too.
In addition, the pharmaceuticalization of a plant could threaten existing growers and distributors, many of whom prefer to sell the whole plant (I will get into that later). There are reasons people search for healing on their own.
One of those reasons is cost: the oil I wound up buying is around $50-75 a month for what I needed. When this plant is ground down and separated and synthesized and someone puts a patent on it, you can bet your sore butt it will be many, many times that cost.
Yes — all the talk about how impossible it is to know what you’re really getting is intimidating. But it’s not really true.
HOW TO RESEARCH CBD OIL FOR YOURSELF
1. Search for scientific studies online
First, I googled the obvious: “CBD oil and pain studies,” “CBD oil and anxiety studies,” “CBD oil and PTSD studies.”
Particularly when it came to pain, it was impossible for me to separate CBD oil from marijuana, such as in this British study: Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain.
Nearly everything else I found was exactly what the MDs had told me: relatively small studies, mainly outside of the US, that were not double-blind or long enough to satisfy my science brain. Still, it was hopeful enough to make me want to try it anyway, because my butt HURT, man.
So I knew I wanted to do this.
2. Learn more about CBD oil
This wonderful article about finding the correct CBD oil helped me to understand the basic bones of the product: Top 5 Ways to Identify High Quality CBD Oil.
I knew I wanted:
- Oil distilled through pharmaceutical-grade ethanol or supercritical CO2 extraction.
- Hemp grown in the U.S.
- THC lower than 0.3 percent
- Full spectrum (the whole plant)
- Recent third-party lab results prominently displayed
- Vaping oil that did not contain Polyethylene or propylene glycol as thinning agents
3. Where to buy?
What company is reputable? How soon can I get my hands on some?
I mean by butt was on FIRE.
Knowing I wanted oral oil for pain (slower acting but longer lasting) and the vape for anxiety (shorter-lasting but nearly instantaneous), I googled Top Ten CBD Oil Companies, and I started inputting dates. Who was on several lists for multiple years? Why?
I created a list of companies that were on multiple lists for multiple years, or companies that had a long track record, and then narrowed down my search by my checklist above. I did some pricing comparisons (see ‘paycheck-to-paycheck’ above), I sent the companies I’d like to buy from questions and noted how complete and how fast their responses were, and decided who I’d buy from.
HOW CBD OIL WORKED ON MY PAIN
Then, I experimented on myself.
I’m going to admit that I had high hopes. I have always been the friend who helped loved ones with cancer find psychoactive cannabis, and I saw what pot did for their pain. It seemed like a miracle. (Oh, dang. Is my kid right about me being a hippy, too?)
But when I took the CBD oil — a nice big mouthful of the oral oil — it didn’t even make a dent in the pain. Not after I waited patiently for the hour several places online recommended.
Aw, damnit, I thought. I guess it has to have THC in it. I’ll take my equally useless Advil/Tylenol cocktail for reasons I can’t articulate and call it a night, even though I can’t sleep with this pain.
But somehow, the combination of Tylenol, Advil, and CBD oil DID make a dent in my pain. I was able to stay at my desk (still standing; I am not a superhero) without lamaze breathing. The pain stopped waking me up. I was just a lady with a pretty damn sore butt.
Googling around, I found a few other anecdotal stories of CBD oil making other pain relievers far more effective, and one or two studies saying the same thing. It was an enormous relief for me.
So I would say if you are a middle-aged mom who hates the feeling of being stoned because you have Issues and constantly have to drive your obnoxious, insulting kids around so you need to stay sharp and also probably the illegality of pot in your state gives you pause, go ahead and try some CBD oil with your Tylenol and Advil.
If CBD doesn’t help and, depending on the laws around you, you may need to investigate THC or other cannabinoids, which may have more effect on some kinds of pain.
HOW VAPING CBD OIL WORKED ON MY PTSD ANXIETY
This is the big OH MY GAWD moment.
My PTSD is pernicious — I am always hypervigilant, I have flashbacks in embarrassing awkward places. I freak out over stupid crap and then over nothing at all.
It affects my parenting, because I become so anxious I start snapping at my kids, or I freak out and tremble and freak them out. It affects my partnership, because living with someone who has PTSD has been likened to living with an alcoholic — despite my six years of treatment, you never know which person I’m going to be from minute-to-minute.
I take an antidepressant which helps the anxiety in a rather nebulous sort of way. I sometimes can control things with yogic breathing, but often it’s too late and I’m punching myself in the head, hyperventilating, and crying.
“Oh, honey,” she said. “You just don’t know what calm feels like.”
So I got the vape pen, and on my first incredibly anxious night I tried it.
Went out on the porch. Clicked the thing five times to activate the battery. Inhaled. Held it in my lungs for a long time. Exhaled.
And it was like an anvil came down out of nowhere and squashed the panic. It was just blocked. It was just gone.
“Are you sure I’m not high?” I asked my partner, five minutes later as I sat at the dinner table wondering if I had the munchies.
“Oh, honey,” she said. “You just don’t know what calm feels like.”
And that was it. The vape didn’t fog my brain. It didn’t draw a cloud of cotton over my hurt. It didn’t make me feel out of control. CBD just … stopped the panic. Instantly. And I felt calm. Peaceful. Still.
Writing this now, a month or so later, I am getting tears in my eyes over the simple fact of it.
SOME FINAL TIPS ON RESEARCHING CBD
I’ve become that person now, the one who demands her friends with anxiety try just ONE HIT off of my vape. I watch them as their faces slowly light up with amazement. As their panic just … stops.
My sample size is tiny. But for my friends and I, vaping CBD for anxiety is 100 percent effective.
If you’ve been wondering about CBD oil, and you have a complex background like I do with feeling high or buzzed, follow my steps:
- Figure out the best type of CBD for you (full spectrum or isolate; edibles or CBD tinctures for slower, longer-lasting help, CBD vape for nearly instantaneous help).
- Find the company by comparing ‘top CBD’ lists and ensuring quality by following my checklist above.
- Google for reviews of the company, and ask customer service questions.
- Start with a very small dose of CBD and go from there.
Maybe it won’t work, like half of the damn antidepressants I’ve tried. But maybe it will, and you can take some of your health care into your own hands.
Anyway, maybe that makes me a hippy. And maybe it’s the same damn plant as weed. But CBD oil is legal in all 50 states, it helps an awful lot of people, and it’s something you can do for yourself NOW.
I’ve spent my life hearing from people that doing something for myself was wrong for so many reasons: because as an unlovable kid and teen I wasn’t worth being taken care of by anyone. Because moms should put everyone else’s needs before our own. Because disabled lives just aren’t worth bothering much about and we are SUPPOSED to be in pain and pretty miserable.
It has taken me many years of therapy to shout down those lying voices.
I now know that if I can get closer to a calmer and less painful place, it is all right for me to try to get there.
And you — you, reading this now — it’s all right for you to seek relief, too.