One-and-a-half-pound Bitsy suffers from multiple health issues.
The tiny chihuahua has neurological issues and liver disease, not to mention bad knees. And a couple years ago she started having frequent seizures.
Bitsy’s owner, Roxy Ellis, decided to try something a little unconventional, and thinks it may have saved her little dog’s life.
Cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil is a prevalent chemical compound in the cannabis plant. But unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, eliminating the “high” achieved from ingesting its better-known relative.
But CBD still impacts the body. Studies supporting the safety and efficacy of CBD for therapeutic purposes are limited, but many who have used CBD oil claim it has helped with chronic pain, anxiety, depression and sleep issues, among others.
Agassiz woman Kelsey Jackson is an acupuncturist in Chilliwack and sells CBD oil from home. She says her peppermint-flavoured drops have been said to help with everything from depression and insomnia to chronic pain and mood disorders.
“You can never claim to cure anything – it’s not like it’s a miracle – but a lot of people are saying [they use it for] chronic pain because it is anti-inflammatory,” she said. “People, and doctors, should know that it’s not trying to compete with pharmaceuticals. It’s a complementary thing you can do [and] it can be part of your self-care routine.”
And medical cannabis, especially CBD, has been increasingly popular with senior demographics.
Last year, CBS reported that seniors are the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis users in the U.S and in Canada. Arthritis is one of the main ailments treated with medical marijuana.
Jackson emphasizes that dosage is individualized and effects are different for everyone.
“Some people say within four of five days they notice a change,” she said.
After Ellis saw the impact of CBD oil on her dog Bitsy, she starting giving her other dog Diamond some CBD oil to help with anxiety. Now Ellis even takes CBD oil herself for chronic pain from a car accident she was in over 15 years ago.
“I’m able to go to the gym now and I haven’t been able to do that since 2001,” she said. “It really has changed our lives completely.”
Agassiz resident Denise MacKinnon, 62, has been using CBD oil since her son introduced it to her last year.
MacKinnon said medication she takes to treat emphysema contributes to bad anxiety and panic attacks.
“Can you imagine waking up every day with your stomach in butterflies, being paralyzed in bed? It was awful,” she said.
While she still uses Ativan about once a month to treat anxiety, MacKinnon says the CBD oil she got form the B.C. Pain Society, a medical grade marijuana dispensary, has changed her everyday life.
“I’ve never smoked marijuana or anything like it, but my son said, ‘Mom you really need to try this,’ ” she recalls. “I don’t have the anxiety and the panic attacks like I used to. It’s just a couple drops underneath your tongue and it really seems to help.”
At present, CBD is legal but is not an approved therapeutic drug by Health Canada. Licensed producers provide medical cannabis through the mail under Health Canada regulations, and while a prescription isn’t necessary to purchase CBD oil, it is recommended to consult a physician (or veterinarian) before giving it a try.
While the federal government works on rolling out its legalization plan, on track for July, many hope that research on the health impacts of cannabis, both good and bad, will become increasingly prioritized by health organizations.