Walgreen’s, Cannabinoids, and Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)

Even Walgreen’s is talking about medical cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. In a recent “Stay Well” Tumblr post, America’s largest retail drug chain stated that research shows cannabis relieves pain in ways traditional pain medicines do not.

The author of the post Dahlia Sultan, PharmD explained, “Cannabinoids attach like a key to a lock to your body’s naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors, which make up the endocannabinoid (EC) system…. Because the EC system is found in many parts of your brain and cannabinoid receptors are all over your body—in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and immune system—the effects of THC and CBD are wide-ranging…. Research on the health benefits of marijuana is ongoing, but current studies have proven that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth and immune function. ”

If a healthy endocannabinoid system is responsible for so many body processes, it makes sense that a deficient endocannabinoid system would leave a body susceptible to a range of illnesses and diseases. In his 2004 paper published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, Ethan Russo, MD reported on this idea and coined the phrase, “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency.”

In his paper entitled “Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?” Dr. Russo, a board-certified neurologist and former Senior Medical Advisor to GW Pharmaceuticals concluded, “Migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines.”

In 2014, the same journal published a report by SC Smith and MS Wagner that concluded, “Subsequent research has confirmed that underlying endocannabinoid deficiencies indeed play a role in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and a growing list of other medical conditions. Clinical experience is bearing this out. Further research and especially, clinical trials will further demonstrate the usefulness of medical cannabis. As legal barriers fall and scientific bias fades this will become more apparent.”


So what is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)?

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency is a lack of endocannabinoids produced by the body. Since the endocannabinoid system maintains internal homeostasis, when a person is deficient in endocannabinoids, his or her body falls out of balance. Pain, inflammation, metabolic problems, and disrupted appetite and sleep are often the result and at the root of many seemingly disparate illnesses and diseases.


Is cannabis the answer?

It may be, but more research is required. What we know from anecdotal evidence is that cannabis makes people feel better, which isn’t surprising because plant-based “phyto” cannabinoids are very similar to “endo” cannabinoids produced by the body. There’s little doubt that ingesting or inhaling cannabis reduces pain and nausea, relaxes spasms, lifts depression, improves energy and more. What researchers want to determine is if these illnesses and diseases are all connected to endocannabinoid deficiencies and if so, whether cannabis treatments can restore homeostasis, health and wellness in CECD patients.


A medical breakthrough?

Some people believe that cannabis may have as big an impact on health and wellness as antibiotics. That’s quite a statement, but it’s not unreasonable. Before bacteria was discovered as the cause of many illnesses, few people believed that one class of medicine—antibiotics—could cure a wide range of illnesses from rashes to pneumonia and a slew of “itises.” But as we now know, that is indeed the case. So will cannabis be as important to human health and wellness as antibiotics? Only time will tell.

If you like to read scientific reports and would like to read more, you may find the report by Pacher et al—”The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy” interesting and informative.

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