Senior Medical Advisor of Elevate CBD, Dr. MK joins Midas Letter for an informative conversation regarding CBD an alternative to opiates and effective treatment for chronic pain. Dr. K is a Board-Certified Emergency Physician and has degrees in Bioengineering, Medicine, and Business from UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and Columbia University. At Elevate CBD, Dr. K works to educate the public on both the benefits and safety of CBD. As an emergency physician, Dr. K witnesses opiote overdoses on every shift. This he believes is far too many. Dr. K and James discuss a future where CBD will hopefully replace opiotes and become a more prominent part of the US pharmacopeia.
James West: I’m joined now by Dr. MK, who is the Senior Medical Advisor to Elevate CBD. Dr. K, welcome.
MK: Thanks so much for having me.
James West: Yeah, sure. Dr. K, you have quite a deep medical history with CBD, more so than most people I’ve ever talked to, and you are an advocate for CBD for chronic pain and as an opiate alternative. Can you give me a background on how you came to arrive at that sort of mindset?
MK: Absolutely. So I’m an emergency physician; I work in the Emergency Department, and here’s what I see in the Emergency Department: I see opiate overdoses every single shift, some of them deadly. And so seeing that, it made me wonder, are there alternative, better therapies for pain? We do have other therapies for pain, but unfortunately, a lot of them don’t work in certain groups. For example, we have anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or Aleve, but that can cause increased bleeding, it can cause problems in the gut, it can cause impaired blood flow to the kidneys.
We have things like Tylenol, which most people don’t consider that strong a pain reliever, but that can also cause inflammation in the liver. So in exploring what are other options, I became increasingly interested in CBD, and I became interested in it for various reasons, one of which is, while I’ve seen every kind of overdose in the Emergency Department, including even marijuana overdoses, fairly frequently, actually, if people don’t have a tolerance or they unintentionally take a higher dose like an edible – I have yet, a single time, to see a CBD overdose.
Meanwhile, I’ve talked to hundreds, maybe thousands of people at this point who swear by CBD has helped their pain. And when you combine all those people that have found benefit with the increasing amount of research demonstrating a benefit, well then, that made me start to pay attention.
James West: Yeah, okay, interesting! There’s been a lot of research to suggest in areas where CBD is widely available, there’s a correlated decrease in the incidence of death from opiate overdose. So, is that because CBD, where it’s available, is appealing to people who might be having abuse issues with prescribed opiates?
MK: The way I think about it is this: no one wants to be dependent on opiates. No one wants to be addicted to opiates. The reason it happens is because, as I mentioned, we just haven’t had that many good therapeutic options for acute or chronic pain. So what I think we’re seeing is more and more people are finding another option, CBD, which is helps with pain, partly through an anti-inflammatory mechanism – so a lot of people are also experiencing decreased inflammation, such as people with arthritis. And so, because they’re finding that alternative, they don’t necessarily need to go to what had become such a common therapy for pain, and that was opiates.
And so, with less use of opiates, yeah, I think we’re seeing less overdoses.
James West: Okay, so do you see a future where CBD replaces opiates for the treatment of pain, post-operative pain, inflammation-related pain? Do you see it becoming a bigger part of the US pharmacopeia over time?
MK: Well, with the proliferating amount of research, I think we’re certainly going to see that. Unfortunately, medicine has been a little slow on the uptake, partly because of the stigma around CBD. Because CBD can be derived from a couple different sources; one of those sources is marijuana. So a lot of people, when they hear CBD, they think marijuana, and so they think, controlled substance. They think it will get them high; they think maybe they can become addicted to it. They think of it like a drug.
But CBD is not the component of marijuana that causes all those things. CBD is a separate component, and it’s actually found in other sources. Part of the reason it’s legal in so many places now, because it can also be derived from hemp. And the CBD derived from hemp is the exact same as the CBD derived from marijuana, meaning, it has the exact same benefit.
So I think as some of the stigma and misconception goes away, yeah, we’re going to start to see this uptake in medicine. Last week was the first time we saw a national health organization, the Arthritis Foundation, actually put guidelines around CBD use, because they recognize hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of arthritis sufferers, are already taking and experiencing benefit from CBD; maybe it’s time to at least have some guidelines around the use, so this can be more programmatic in its prescription and use in therapy.
James West: Sure. The FDA has started to hold hearings looking, seeking, consulting with the public, essentially, and other stakeholders in the hemp industry, and they’re trying to, you know, arrive at a sort of policy towards CBD. Is there a risk to the current availability of CBD should the FDA decide that it needs to become more of a regulated substance than it is now?
MK: While there’s always a theoretical risk, I don’t think that’s going to happen, and the reason why is, as I mentioned, CBD can be arrived from different sources. One is marijuana, and while, you know, on the Federal level and in many states, marijuana is still regulated, not fully legal, hemp is fully legal in all 50 states. And so I do not anticipate seeing increased restriction on the use of hemp-derived CBD. In fact, I believe as a lot of the misconception goes away about CBD and that it can be derived from hemp, and that it doesn’t come with all these effects like getting you high, I think we’re going to continue to have the legality in all 50 states like we do now, but I think we’ll also have, with that, increased use by consumers, as well as increased prescription use by healthcare practitioners.
James West: Sure. And I’ve noticed in the media that you’ve been a rather vocal proponent of CBD for use in treating pain associated with professional sports injuries, and in fact, I read a piece earlier where you were commenting on the participation of Rob Grankowski, the former star of the New England Patriots, as having become an advocate for CBD. How does CBD play into the treatments for professional sports where, if I’m not mistaken, it’s still more or less a banned substance?
MK: So the one important thing to understand is, it’s being used, CBD, very widely in professional sports. As I mentioned, CBD derived from hemp is legal in all 50 states, and so ideally, that’s the type that’s used; if it’s marijuana-derived, it’s still the same CBD substance. So it is being used, and I think what athletes are finding is, it’s a better alternative than a lot of the things they were doing, because athletes were already experiencing pain, injury, inflammation. That was already, has always been the case. And they’ve been using things to deal with that.
I think some of those options have been less than ideal. For example, taking injections of anti-inflammatories, which can cause all those side effects that I mentioned about bleeding and damage to the kidneys and gut. And so now, they’re finding this better anti-inflammatory option without those side effects.
So part of the reason I’m an advocate, as you mentioned, is not because I’m saying CBD good/bad, I’m saying, let’s compare it to the alternatives that people are already doing, which is opiates, anti-inflammatory injections, and there’s no doubt in my mind that CBD is a better alternative in terms of the risks it presents. It has a far lower risk profile.
James West: All right. Well, that’s great input, Dr. K. We’re going to leave it there for now. We’ll hope to come back to you soon. Thank you very much for joining us today.
MK: Thanks again for having me.
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