‘Mistakenly Controversial’ CBD Offers Hope, Relief

By J.D. WATSON | Jul 03, 2019

Southern Ocean County — Will Gonzalez remembers the night everything changed.

Gonzalez’ 6-year-old daughter, Alana, was in her bedroom at the family’s Barnegat home. Alana, who has a host of physical disabilities – an extremely rare genetic disorder and epilepsy in addition to being on the autism spectrum and non-verbal – was not sleeping even though it was sometime after 2 a.m. and she had been in bed for hours.

Alana has a habit of self-injury with pinching when frustrated. That night she was really struggling.

“My wife and I were watching on the monitor we have hooked up to her room,” Gonzalez recalled. “She wasn’t sleeping; it was hours. We thought it might be appendicitis. She was pressing on her stomach, pinching herself. It was really bad.”

Because Alana is non-verbal, Gonzalez and his wife, Jasmine, had to try to diagnose what might be ailing their daughter and treating her symptoms and alleviating her pain as best as they could, all the while being wary and aware of any side effects that might interfere with other medications she would be on for her underlying disorder. It is a plight familiar to many parents, exacerbated by Alana’s non-verbal status.

“She’d been having issues for about a month, screaming, crying for hours at a time,” Gonzalez said. “She would self-inflict pain. It was rough. But that night was the worst. We knew something had to change.”

Gonzalez, who along with his wife and daughter have had their names changed here for their daughter’s privacy, had heard that others had had success in treating symptoms related to autism with a relatively new treatment – CBD oil. Wishing to leave no possibility of relief unexplored, he investigated as best he could.

“There’s not a whole lot of research out there,” he said.

Gonzalez found what he could, from anecdotal success stories to more thorough studies, and brought the results to their daughter’s pediatrician.

“I had some information – I like hard facts – and we brought that to the pediatrician. He said ‘great,’ but he really had zero knowledge about CBD. He wasn’t for it or against it; he just said, ‘If you do it, make sure you pay attention to any side effects,’” Gonzalez recollected.

“So we did as much due diligence as possible and we figured we would start small and go from there.”

Heard About CBD –

What Is It?

Cannabidiol is a molecule derived from the cannabis plant. Commonly referred to as CBD, it differs from the more well-known marijuana molecule delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, in that CBD is not psychoactive; that is, its users do not get high from its consumption. Furthermore, according to a report produced by the World Health Organization, “in humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. ... To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug (defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, such as heroin; lysergic acid diethylamide, (LSD); 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy); methaqualone; and peyote) has made research into CBD by American scientists difficult.

Despite that, in the late 1990s scientists at the National Institutes of Health discovered that CBD could produce notable medicinal effects.

Medicinal cannabis has been used in Asia for centuries and while hemp, a variety of cannabis that does not contain THC, has been an important crop – its fibers are readily made in to strong and long lasting ropes and sails – its medicinal options have not been as quickly recognized.

But now, as 2018’s Farm Bill removed hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) and any part of that plant that does not have a concentration of THC of more than 0.3 percent from Schedule 1, hemp still remains regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

However, both hemp and marijuana are classified as Cannabis sativa L. And therein lies some of the confusion concerning CBD. To echo Renaissance toxicologist Paracelus, the dose is the poison.

The legality of CBD products in New Jersey depends on how and from where the CBD is extracted. CBD derived from marijuana could have a THC concentration of more than 0.3 percent and would be restricted to medical marijuana distribution. CBD derived from hemp (or any C. sativa containing less than 0.3 percent THC) would be available, well, just about anywhere these days.

Choices, Choices, Choices

At Local Retailers

At the Prime Time Smoke Shop in Stafford Township, there are shelves filled with different choices of products made with CBD. Some of the products available there and elsewhere, including online, include oils to be vaporized or placed under the tongue or even mixed in foods, lotions to be rubbed on sore muscles and joints, gummies and chocolates, even cocoa butter vaginal suppositories, designed to have “soothing, tension-melting effects,” delivered “directly to the area that needs it most,” according to its online advertising.

Because the FDA prohibits marketers from making unproven health claims, many of the claims associated with the products are vague, but that doesn’t stop some from making such claims. According to the FDA’s website, the FDA is “aware that some firms are marketing CBD products to treat diseases or for other therapeutic uses, and we have issued several warning letters to such firms.”

Nevertheless, those who buy these products are looking for precisely those therapeutic effects they can’t find elsewhere.

“When someone finds the product that works, they stick with it,” Will Gonzalez said, referring to the conversations he’s had with other CBD users.

Justin McGuire, manager of Prime Time Smoke Shop, agreed. “It’s very popular,” he said. “We have people that come in and they’re looking for something for arthritis or some neuropathy or seizures. Or they’re buying it for those conditions with their kids.

“We’ve heard nothing but good things,” he added.

He noted their three best sellers are lotions, tinctures (CBD oil dissolved with ethanol, for oral consumption), and gummies.

The Vitamin Shoppe corporate offices declined to comment on this story, but a representative from the company’s Manahawkin store, who was not authorized to comment on CBD products in greater detail, did say, “There has been a big demand. People were asking before we even had it.” She said they had been carrying CBD products for a couple of months.

McGuire said users usually need to use the products for a while before effects can be seen.

“People usually wait up to two weeks for it to build up in their system. Some say they see immediate effects, but I’m not sure that’s not a placebo effect.”

To be sure, there has been little research into the side effects of CBD and what has been done has been inconclusive. A Harvard study found that some children on nonprescription CBD oils undergo mood changes, the causes of which are unclear.

Of greater concern among CBD users and retailers is the lack of quality control among the various products.

Sam Kelly, owner of Kapler’s Pharmacy in Beach Haven and Medicine Solutions Pharmacy in Manahawkin, explained some of the products her stores carry. “We have a super cheap option, a cosmetically cheaper one that’s popular because of the price, and a pharmaceutical grade that I like because you know exactly what’s in it,” she said.

Her stores, too, have been carrying CBD products for almost a year and she recognizes the popularity. “It’s really a great alternative to more traditional pain relief remedies. So many patients get benefits from it. At this point I’d even recommend it before” some name brand pain relievers.

Kelly called CBD “mistakenly controversial” because of its association with marijuana but considered the non-THC, hemp-derived pure CBD a great alternative to opioid-based pain relievers.

Relief for Alana:

Now a ‘Different Child’

About a year ago, the Gonzalez family was adjusting Alana’s epilepsy medication with rough results. “The first medication really seemed to mess with her body,” Will Gonzalez said. “Her sleep patterns were terrible. She was having stomach pain, diarrhea.”

That led to changing her medications which led to even worse results, resulting in the night when he and his wife knew that something had to change.

The results have been startling.

“We can’t say how happy we are. It’s almost like she is a different child,” Gonzalez said.

Alana now routinely sleeps through the night. “She went from four hours a night to sleeping eight hours an night,” he explained.

But that is not all.

Like many on the autism spectrum, Alana Gonzalez has very low muscle tone, yet like many 7-year-olds, she is very active. But because she is non-verbal, it’s up to her parents to interpret how she is feeling on any given day. “We know when she is sore,” her father said.

Here, too, the CBD lotion is beneficial. “We apply some after a long day when we assume she’s pretty sore. It helps.”

Gonzalez explained that for Alana, they rely on the gel lotion for her aches and pains and administering the oil orally “to supplement her epilepsy meds.”

Like others who have found a remedy that works for them, Gonzalez has every intention to stick with CBD. “Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I don’t believe that,” he said. “The change has been so great, it’s got to be more than a coincidence.”

Kelly thinks there is something to that. “The body has cannabinoid receptors. It’s like the body is looking for it,” she said.

Gonzalez said that because of Alana’s considerable medical challenges, she will occasionally need an MRI. In the past she would have to be sedated for the procedure. After using CBD, the sedation is no longer necessary.



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