FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Millions of people across the United States suffer from chronic pain each year.
For some, it lasts a lifetime.
Doctors across the state are turning to a relatively new method to manage chronic pain. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil was legalized in Indiana July 2017.
It is gaining popularity because doctors said it’s a natural approach to pain relief. In fact, some doctors believe CBD could be the answer to combating the opioid crisis.
It is being prescribed to patients to treat chronic pain – and is helping wean people off paid medications.
Kelly Combs was diagnosed with Lupus 17 years ago. Lupus can attack organs and tissues in your body causing unimaginable pain, said Combs.
“Living with lupus is pretty much living in pain, a lot of the time,” she said. “Getting out of bed was very difficult. By the time your muscles warm up and your joints warmed up, it takes about an hour or two in the morning.”
Combs said doctors tried everything. Eventually she was prescribed high doses of opioids.
“Nothing seemed to work for me,” she said. “Nothing seemed to alleviate the pain for any period of time besides narcotics.”
She soon learned that relief would come in a bottle of CBD oil. After taking it every day, she saw significant improvement in just four months.
“I completely came off all my narcotics and felt amazing,” she said. My pain level actually decreased.”
Dr. Daniel Roth of Summit Pain Management said he prescribes CBD oil to about a fifth of his patients.
“I started seeing patients get better and better and better without any serious adverse side effects or events,” said Roth.
The oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and should contain no more than .3% of THC. Doctors believe it can help treat several medical problems – including pain and anxiety – but does not cause intoxication.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deb McMahan said this could be a real tool used to address the opioid epidemic.
“It’s important if we’re saying we don’t want you to use opioids but we want you to maintain functionality, work, be productive in your family… we need to be able to start offering some alternatives,” she said.
CBD is legal in Indiana and more than a dozen other states. However, it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means the quality of the product can vary by manufacturer.
“The CBD oil that is out in the public isn’t getting the quality control and isn’t getting scrutinized on its content of THC and CBD,” said Dr. Jay Fawver of Parkview Health. “I’m hoping to see, over a period of time, is long term studies. How are people doing after they’ve been on it for six months, or a year on a regular basis?”
Roth said his patients’ success stories only reinforce the effectiveness of the product.
“They were taking less pain medication, they stopped taking their anxiety medication,” he said.
“CBD oil has changed my life,” said Combs. “And I feel so grateful for it.”