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How to Talk to Your Doctor About CBD

Posted by Janna Champagne,RN on



Living with chronic pain is challenging, especially because of the recent changes to the CDC guidelines, enforcing dose reductions for opioid pain medications. Naturally this has resulted in patients seeking alternative options to relieve their pain, including Cannabidiol, or CBD. Here’s a guide to help you discuss the topic of CBD with your doctor.

Preparing to Talk to Your Doctor

Doctors love research, and CBD is supported by tens of thousands of reputable research articles. The potentially beneficial CBD applications include a vast range of ailments including pain, anxiety, dementia and cancer. In addition, CBD has an unprecedented safety profile, and has zero potential for abuse or addiction problems. Compared with prescription opioids, which are profoundly addictive and harmful, CBD is the more natural and safe option for pain relief. A foundational oath taken by all medical providers entails commitment to help patients make informed decisions, by openly weighing the risks and potential benefits of their treatment options. Discussing the worrisome side effects of opioids pharmaceuticals with your physician, and advocating for your right to patient autonomy (patient’s right to make their own medical decisions) is often part of this process.

Despite increased popularity using CBD as an alternative to pharmaceuticals, some in the medical community are slower to accept the science. This is because CBD interacts with the Endocannabinoid System, which is not taught in medical schools due to the ongoing stigma around cannabis. This means doctors must seek out research and education on their own time in order to become familiar with the potential health benefits of CBD. This presents a challenge for patients seeking to supplement or replace their current pharmaceutical regimen with CBD, since you may be more knowledgeable CBD than your doctor.

Doctors in today’s medical health care system are mostly reliant on pharmaceuticals to treat illnesses. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have a powerful influence on our health care systems, politics and media. Big Pharma understands perfectly that CBD is a profound threat to their profits as the #1 alternative to pharmaceuticals. The difference in approaches often makes CBD the more potentially beneficial option for treatment of patients, since 95% of pharmaceuticals can’t substantially change the underlying imbalances causing illness and symptoms. Alternatively, CBD targets the root cause of disease by promoting overall balance in the body, thereby offering far more “curative” potential vs pharmaceuticals. Many contend that this is very the reason for “Reefer Madness” propaganda, and the unwarranted government regulation of cannabis despite its sparkling safe reputation.

Another helpful tip is researching your condition to know exactly how CBD might benefit your health. This will allow you to explain to your doctor why you believe CBD is a better option. Be prepared to answer the following questions: Why do you want to take CBD? Are you experiencing problems or concerns over side effects of proposed/current pharmaceuticals? What symptoms do you want to help alleviate? Once you have what you want to say in mind, you will need to communicate your goals clearly to your doctor.

During the Appointment

During the appointment, remain as calm as possible. If your physician isn’t receptive, it’s not your responsibility to educate and change their mind (since this might not even be possible). It IS your responsibility to take charge of your health care and make well-informed decisions, and you have autonomy regardless of your doctor’s opinion on CBD. Remember, there are many CBD-knowledgeable doctors willing to offer you a second opinion should your doctor insist on remaining in an archaic mindset that rejects CBD as an option. Remember, you’re not doing anything wrong nor are you risking trouble by asking your doctor about CBD, since it’s perfectly legal. Many times doctors are misinformed about CBD, and here are a few facts you might need to cite to correct any misunderstandings:

  1. CBD is FDA approved 
  2. CBD is not intoxicating, and is legal throughout the United States, assuming it contains less than 0.3% THC 
  3. Our US Government holds a patent for CBD as Medicine, further supporting its viability for medical use

Be direct and honest when you speak to your doctor, and review your rationale for considering CBD to help reach your health goals. Be honest about any undesirable side effects of prescribed medication, your intent to reduce reliance on pharmaceuticals with CBD, and request guidance to taper off your dose (once symptoms are managed with CBD). 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 soft gels. CBD may interact with pharmaceuticals, so if your doctor is not willing to support you, it’s important to seek guidance from a knowledgeable medical professional to avoid any adverse effects of combining CBD with other medications. 

After the Appointment: Your Doctor Said Yes 

If your doctor agreed to guide you, congratulations on taking the first step in taking charge of your health. Ideally you have a doctor-approved plan to add CBD to your daily regimen, with a goal of tapering off your current pharmaceuticals once symptoms are managed with CBD. Although this is great news, the journey is not over yet.

You will need to continue to keep in touch with your doctor, reporting any withdrawal symptoms and updating them on your condition. You may also need to do things like take blood tests or return for checkups if your doctor suggests it.

After the Appointment: Your Doctor Said No

Now, let’s say your appointment didn’t go so well. Perhaps your doctor did not feel confident in their knowledge of CBD to advise you on usage, or maybe they do not know how to help you taper off your current medications. If your doctor is open to the subject, suggest they consult an educational resource regarding the science of CBD.

If your doctor is worried about a negative drug interaction, it may be best to follow their advice. If you want to get a second opinion, contact a certified nurse here or learn more about CBD drug interaction here.

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 and extend the length of time it takes your body to process it.

To put this in perspective, eating a portion of grapefruit would have a similar effect on P450 enzymes. Therefore, drug interactions should be viewed as a minor side effect of Cannabidiol.

In addition to interactions of CBD on drugs metabolized through CYP450, there are potential combined effects that may increase risk factors. The most common issues result from combining CBD with anti-diabetics, anti-hypertensives, and mental health medications.  Being well-informed about potential issues with taking CBD with pharmaceuticals will ensure you experience optimal results.

Talking about CBD with your doctor can be intimidating, but it does not have to be! You are not doing anything wrong or illegal, and you are not asking them to either. Go in well-informed and be open and candid with them about what you are looking for. For further information regarding CBD and how it can benefit your health, please click here.



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