CBD is now readily available in many forms in high-street shops. Photograph: MediaWorldImages/Alamy
For Fayed personally, CBD helped with memory and concentration. “And tiredness,” she adds. “I’ve got two kids, I run a business, we all need a boost. I’d rather have that than a big black coffee every two hours or whatever.” And it made a difference? “Absolutely. General concentration, sleeping better, just an all-rounder. From taking it, in about six weeks, I could basically track the difference in the way it made me feel. So I just thought: ‘Let’s introduce this to the commercial market.’”
His medicine is Epidiolex, a purified form of cannabidiol that contains less than 0.1% THC. It has been developed by a UK company, GW Pharmaceuticals, and is recommended for the treatment of two of the rarest and most severe forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. When it was cleared for use in the US last year, the president of the Epilepsy Foundation called it “a true medical advancement”. Treatment does, however, come at an eye-watering cost; in the US, GW estimates $36,000 (£28,000) per patient annually, though the company notes that the potential future price in the UK might be different.
Horn’s adult life had been spent in the shadow of a horrific accident that took place when he was 22. In June 2006, he had been shooting at a target with an air rifle in the garden of his family home; his parents are the music producers Jill Sinclair and Trevor Horn. Horn didn’t realise his mother was nearby, and a stray pellet lodged in her neck and severed an artery. Sinclair experienced hypoxia, which caused irreversible brain damage, and she spent years in a coma before dying in 2014.
One suspicion about cannabidiol is that it is an impossible panacea: some, for example, claim CBD makes them more relaxed; others that it sharpens their mind to focus on complex work problems. Can it really do both? But, for McGuire, this is less a contradiction and more an indication that we don’t yet know what CBD is capable of and how best to use it. “One of the interesting things about the endocannabinoid system in the body is that it’s not just in the brain but also all over the body,” he explains. “And cannabidiol also appears to have beneficial effects on metabolism, on the immune system and liver function, in addition to its mental health effects.”
‘CBD will change culture’: Aaron Horn at his LDN CBD boutique in Camden. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer
Mental health is just one area of investigation for those studying cannabidiol. Perhaps the best-known user of CBD – if you discount Gwyneth Paltrow, who has collaborated through her lifestyle website Goop with the MedMen cannabis store, and a handful of Hollywood actresses who have said they use the oil to reduce the discomfort from wearing high heels on the red carpet – is Billy Caldwell. The 13-year-old from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, who has epilepsy, made headlines last summer when his cannabidiol medicine was confiscated at Heathrow. After a public outcry, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, intervened and medicinal cannabis oil can now legally be prescribed in the UK. It’s been far from straightforward for the family: Billy recently spent three months in Canada, where medicinal cannabis use is less regulated, but he finally returned home in February.
“I’m not trying to be a killjoy,” says McGuire, “but, especially in mental health, the size of the placebo effect is enormous. That’s not to dismiss it, but that’s why in clinical trials, if you don’t give half the people in the trial a placebo, it’s considered junk. It’s not publishable, it’s not taken seriously because, in mental health, the placebo effect can produce a 40% change in symptoms.
A aron Horn first came across cannabidiol, or CBD, about three years ago in Glastonbury – the town, not the festival. “I found it at this amazing hemp shop, Hemp in Avalon,” recalls Horn, a musician who is now 35. “It’s run by a guy called Free. His last name is Cannabis. He changed his name by deed poll to Free Cannabis.” Horn bought a tube of high-concentration CBD paste – “it comes out like a brown toothpaste, almost” – and it was recommended he put a tiny dot on his finger and pop it in his mouth.
This led to a complex discussion on many subtopics related to CBD oil. These included its precautions, legal restrictions, indications, actions and influence of the compounds in cannabis on the endocannabinoid system, and the “entourage effect” of all the cannabinoids. The summary videos and links to the accompanying articles and resources on these factors can be found here.
Please note, this website is not endorsing any CBD or associated products.
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