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An expert panel created by the National Football League and its players union said this week that while the cannabis compound CBD shows promise in the treatment of some forms of pain, the science doesn’t currently live up to the “hype.”
Following a fact-finding forum on alternatives to opioid painkillers, which involved conversations with CBD manufacturers, the Pain Management Committee for the NFL and the NFL Players Association noted Tuesday that there’s strong interest in CBD and medical marijuana more broadly. But the panel didn’t seem convinced that the non-intoxicating ingredient would benefit players.
“CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the committee wrote in a white paper for players. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”
“Clinical trials in large numbers of people are usually needed before millions of Americans use a medication for serious medical problems,” the group said. “There are two small clinical studies that suggest that CBD may be effective for treating a kind of pain called neuropathic pain that involves a burning feeling usually in a person’s feet.”
The paper also said that because CBD products are largely unregulated, it’s hard to determine whether they are properly labeled, and there’s the potential for such products to contain THC, which could result in a positive drug test for players.
Additionally, “there may be drug-drug interactions caused by CBD or players may opt for CBD as a medical treatment in lieu of treatments with more scientific evidence supporting them,” the NFL and NFLPA committee said in another white paper intended for league medical staff.
The body also raised doubts about clinical studies into Food and Drug Administration-approved medications composed of synthetic cannabinoids that are used in the treatment of chronic and neuropathic pain, arguing that those investigations relied on small sample sizes and limited follow-ups that call into question their therapeutic value.
“Of course, cannabis remains a banned substance under the NFL Policy for Substances of Abuse,” the committee concluded. “In addition, the potential problems associated with cannabis, from acute impairment of driving, addiction, and exacerbation of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, make it a substance to approach with extreme caution.”
The fact-finding forum held Tuesday wasn’t aimed at amending league policy directly, but rather it was meant to be “an educational and scientific exercise” that “does not impact the jointly administered Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse,” the groups said in a joint statement to NFL.com.
That said, negotiations are ongoing between the league and players union, and there’s pressure on the NFL to adopt a more permissive policy when it comes to marijuana, especially as more states opt to legalize it for medical or recreational purposes.
After the MLB announced last year that it is removing cannabis from its list of banned substances for baseball players, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and star quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots both said they were expecting the league to follow suit and change its marijuana policy.