How to use medical marijuana without getting high

This post, “How to Use Medical Marijuana without Getting High,” originally appeared on National Pain Report. It is being reprinted here with permission from the editor. 

Marijuana has gained a lot of attention lately as a potential treatment for fibromyalgia. By using CBD-rich cannabis products, you can reap some of the medicinal benefits of marijuana without the high. | FedUpwithFatigue.com

The research may be slim, but there are plenty of anecdotal accounts indicating marijuana can be effective at reducing fibromyalgia pain. Visit any online fibromyalgia support group, and you’ll find more than a handful of pioneering members who have sworn off pharmaceuticals and instead toke up regularly for pain relief and better sleep.

But if you’ve never tried marijuana before, the idea of using it – even for medicinal purposes – can be scary and more than a little overwhelming.

And then there are those, like myself, who smoked pot 20+ years ago in college. We aren’t afraid of using pot. We know it’s relatively benign (especially when compared to some of the pharmaceuticals we’ve taken for fibro). Still, we haven’t taken the plunge because we don’t want to spend our days stoned out of our minds.

But thanks to the evolving medical marijuana industry, those of us who fall into either of these two groups now have an option. Indeed, there’s a way to use marijuana without getting high!

Using marijuana without getting high …

Cannabidiol-rich (CBD) products give you some of the medicinal benefits of marijuana without having to stumble around the house in search of chips and pizza. CBD made national headlines in 2013 when CNN News profiled the story of Charlotte Figi, a 3-year-old Colorado girl who suffered from up to 300 epileptic seizures a week. Desperate for relief, Charlotte’s parents began treating her with CBD-rich oil, and the result was a miracle. Over time, Charlotte’s seizures slowed to an average of two to three seizures a month. Since then, early studies have confirmed marijuana extracts can be effective in treating epilepsy.

Because of legal constraints, little research has been done on using marijuana as a treatment for fibromyalgia. But a few small studies and patient accounts hint that marijuana may be beneficial.
In 2011, a small Spanish study concluded that patients using marijuana experienced a significant reduction in pain and stiffness, increased relaxation and an overall improvement in well-being.

Last year, a National Pain Foundation survey of 1,300 fibromyalgia patients found that marijuana is more effective at relieving pain than Lyrica, Cymbalta and Savella, the three drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for fibromyalgia.

Early research indicates that whole-plant cannabis can be effective for pain management, but does CBD work just as well on its own? To answer that, we need more research.

Rigorous clinical studies are still needed to evaluate the clinical potential of CBD for specific conditions,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, while testifying before the U.S. Senate on CBD in July. “However, pre-clinical research, including both cell culture and animal models, has shown CBD to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including anti-seizure, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety properties.”

Most cannabis experts endorse a whole-plant approach. They say using the whole plant creates a synergy of sorts between the 85+ cannabinoids contained in the plant. If you take one of those cannabinoids out, like CBD, and use it on its own, you will not get the full benefit.

A whole-plant approach …

But there is a way to still take a whole-plant approach and not feel the psychoactive effects of marijuana. It’s all about using the correct ratio.

Dr. Jahan Marcu, senior scientist with Americans for Safe Access, says a 1:1 ratio, meaning equal parts of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) and CBD, gives the benefits of whole-plant cannabis without the high that most people associate with cannabis. In research studies, THC has been found to be particularly beneficial for pain relief, so it’s a key part of the equation.

“You really need the THC in there to get the medicinal benefits of the cannabis,” Marcu said. “CBD has not been found to be very effective by itself. [Using a 1:1 ratio] will probably give you the best chance for a positive therapeutic improvement.”

Dr. Michelle Sexton, a naturopathic doctor, uses CBD oil as a treatment in her San Diego practice. She usually starts patients at an extremely high CBD to THC ratio (18:1) and then increases the THC content as needed for symptom relief.

“Everyone has to find their comfort zone,” said Martin Lee, founder of Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical uses of CBD and other components of the cannabis plant. “You want to get as much THC as you can, so that it works better. That can be different from person to person.”

Like every medical treatment, some patients with chronic pain respond well to CBD-rich products and others do not.

“I think it depends on the types of pain you have,” Sexton said. “Any type of pain that seems to be neuropathic seems to respond.”

Anecdotally, the best ways to use CBD-rich products seem to be sublingually (placing drops of the oil under the tongue) or through inhalation (vaping is preferable to smoking). But there are topical and edible products available as well. (I have a friend who uses CBD-rich lotion for neuropathic leg pain from fibromyalgia and says it gives her relief when nothing else has.)

For those who live in states where marijuana is legal, almost any dispensary carries CBD-rich cannabis products these days. The package should indicate the ratio of CBD to THC to make selection easier. (Dispensary employees are typically very knowledgeable about their products and can help guide in decision-making.)

But is it legal …

For people who live in states where marijuana is not legal, procuring CBD-rich products becomes much more complicated. Some legal states allow out-of-state residents to purchase products at dispensaries, so that’s an option for some.

And then there’s the giant quagmire of the hemp CBD oil industry. Anyone who’s researched CBD has probably come across websites that sell hemp CBD oil and profess their product is “legal in all 50 states.”

The truth is it’s not, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and every CBD expert that’s been interviewed for this story (and others that I’ve written).

Hemp is derived from the cannabis plant. Cannabis is listed as a schedule I drug in the United States, so hemp CBD is illegal, according to the federal government.

But if that’s true, why aren’t the feds cracking down on illegal online hemp oil sales? Well, the answer depends on who is asked. There are probably a variety of factors, including the fact that, as illegal drugs go, cannabis products are pretty safe. There’s never been a fatal overdose, and the potential for addiction is pretty low (about 15 percent). With heroin and opioid addiction sweeping across the nation, chances are good that the DEA has bigger issues to handle.

But before clicking off of this story to buy a bottle of hemp CBD online, please read this caution: The hemp CBD industry is completely unregulated, and it’s a situation of buyer beware for several reasons. First, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested several brands of hemp CBD oil earlier this year and found that many contain little or no CBD. So, buyers may not be getting what they’re paying for. (And this is a big issue since CBD oil is not cheap!)

Second, the hemp plant is classified as a bio-accumulator, meaning it likes to suck up toxins from the soil in which it’s grown. In fact, hemp was planted near Chernobyl to help with radiation cleanup. Since hemp CBD is unregulated, there’s no way to know under what conditions the plant was grown – if it was exposed to harmful pesticides, environmental toxins or chemicals. Conceivably, consumers could be unknowingly poisoning themselves if they choose the wrong CBD product.

“There’s no easy solution,” Marcu admitted. “A lot of patients I know have basically been criminalized for using their medicine.”

A new era may be coming …

The FDA is currently reviewing all of the medical literature pertaining to the medicinal use of marijuana. It could recommend the rescheduling or descheduling of marijuana, opening the door for research and better access. Congress or President Obama (through executive order) could also make that decision.

One thing is certain: Americans’ views about marijuana are shifting – rapidly – and it’s likely we will see some form of federal legalization in our lifetime, finally giving us easier access to products that may help us.

Visit Project CBD for more information on CBD and its uses and benefits. I previously shared my own experience using CBD oil for fibromyalgia in this blog post.

What you need to know about using CBD oil to treat fibromyalgia pain. Is it legal? Find out here. |FedUpwithFatigue.com


  1. I have heard a lot of good things about medical cannabis. I can see how using the correct ratio would be important to getting the most out of the medical marijuana. If it won’t give your body a “high”, and can relieve pain, I have no problems with using it!

  2. My wife has awful sciatica, caused by scar tissue after a microdiscectomy. She is in terrible pain all day, cant sit for more that 5 minutes. She takes 4 Tramacet per day which don’t really work. We now have cañnabis oil ,so called one to one 1:1. She started slowly with 0.25 ml, nothing. Next day 0.5.ml, no releif. Next day 0.75 ml, nòthing. Yesterday 1.0 ml , she felt weird, memory losses but no pain relief whatsoever.
    We were so hopeful that this would work. Can anyone relate to this and help?
    It is legal here in BC so it is coming from a reliable source. We are following advice from the suppliers but I feel they are running out of ideas.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Hi Ken, I’ve never used cannabis-based CBD oil and am not a medical professional, so I cannot speak to dosing. I know there are many knowledgable people in cannabis groups on facebook. Have you tried posing your question in some of those groups? One of the fibro experts that I follow, Dr. Ginevra Liptan, also recommends the book, Cannabis Pharmacy by Michael Backes. It’s sold on Amazon. I know it’s hard to find good, reliable info on cannabis b/c the research hasn’t yet caught up to the usage.

    • Averill says

      Yes, I have the same issues. I have no clinical expertise just started trying the hemp cbd gummies and my goodness what a difference. Ive slept through the night and fibro and micro scaitica eased by 75% . Good luck. I hope you see or get relief soon.

  3. Ruth Templeton says

    I, too would like to know more side effects. I already weigh over 300 lbs, depression meds. Taking Loritab for pain and will loose that soon. I don’t need the munchies, have them already. But my pain is relentless. Help

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      As far as I’ve read, there are no side effects for CBD-rich cannabis (unless you smoke it, and then you’ll have lung irritation). It doesn’t cause the munchies.

  4. Carrie Fath says

    How do I find a legitimate site that sells CBD oil? I was diagnosed 17 years ago, have tried everything under the sun to help with the pain, with no luck.

    One more question… I’m already 50 lbs. overweight. Does the CBD oil make you have “the munchies” like smoking pot does? I haven’t smoked it in over 20 years, but I vividly remember eating everything in front of me! LOL

    Thanks in advance!

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Carrie, I just emailed you.

    • Sharon Miller says

      My cousin began a company for producing high quality cbd oil. He’s involved from growing (beginning with good soil and cultivatING the best plants to organic fertilization) to manufacturing and every batch tested. He started because of his son having hundreds of seizures a day…the improvements have been a miracle. As well as legislating in his state of Kentucky for it to be legal. He’s sending me a bottle to see how I do for my Fibromyalgia and nerve pain from back surgery. This was completely outside my comfort zone but this is opening up a whole new area for me.

      • Allison Kelly says

        How did you do with the CBD oil? do you have a suggestion as to a good site to get it?

  5. Rebecca J says

    I have tried smoking pot but do not like the side effects. My son gave me a small cupcake made with hemp butter. I cut it into quarters and was surprised at the relief with almost no side rffects. Once while in extreme pain I ate a whole one….I DO NOT recommend it! I do not have anyone now that makes the cupcakes, and I am very intetested in the CBD oil, will post results. Thank you for the lead.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      You’re welcome. Let me know about what you try and if it works for you.

  6. Mary A Miller says

    Just a small note, The Figigis, were told by hospital staff, to take their child home ” and make arrangements” to bury their 4 year old daughter. (not three at the time). Mike and Paige were besides themselves, and began looking into cannabis on a suggestion. Charlotte is doing wonderful! Today we lost another Dravet’s child however. We have GOT to stop seeing cannabis as a political tool and begin to ‘grow up’ as a nation. While my comments might not be fibromyalgia related in saying this, I wanted to correct the information about Charlotte for those who might be wondering about her, and her family.

    I use cannabis oil specifically for pain, sleep, nausea, etc. I ended up with Serotonin Syndrome from pharmaceuticals that almost killed me, too. The thing most people fail to realize is that Cannabis is SAFE, that there has been no deaths in using, and if you don’t want to get “high”, it’s fairly simple method to use: as with anything, use less. I use about 1 grain of rice size oil amount. The problem that most people have is in understanding how cannabis works: CBD alone without any cannabis, has been found to have extreme limits on what it can do, there is something called the “entourage effect” best explained orally here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/11/health/gupta-marijuana-entourage/

    I love the Figi Family and believe that CW (charlotte’s web) was one of the best inventions, but for adults the best answer is a 1=1 ratio of CBD to THC, from what I have found talking to people. You need it all, not just the CBD. Avoid buying it, btw over the internet, please! Hemp paste, Hemp oil, and many products because it is still illegal, often contain almost no cannabis at all, period, and charge big money to promise you high CBD. Don’t give in to the temptation. Get it from a reputable dispensary, friend, or learn the process to make it yourself. The more whole of the plant you use, the better it seems people react to using it.

    Many are turning to RAW cannabis, because it utilizes the non psychoactive THCa, as well as thousands of other endocannabinoids. This is key to healing and better health. I have yet to try it, simply because you must grow your own, to have access in most places to raw plants, to juice.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Thank you for the additional information! I’m sure readers will find it useful.

      • Kit Kennedy says

        Please post justification for the statement that the DEA made cbd oil illegal.
        I have researched this extensively and from what I can see, the DEA does not make laws, congress does.. So by saying cbd is not legal they are perpetuating a falsehood. The DEA only have the ability to enforce laws. Some states have made cbd illegal, but very few

    • George says

      Unfortunately, many don’t have a choice about what they can use to combat pain. Many don’t live in states where it is legal and some that do find that their condition is not on the approved conditions list for their state. And then there are those that have access, but risk losing their jobs if they’re to take anything with an appreciable amount of THC. A ratio like 1:1 is way too much for anyone subject to drug testing for their job or for pain management clincs. For those people, high CBD hemp could be the only choice. It’s unfortunate that there are so few really reputable high CBD hemp solutions out there. It’s too easy to get conned. There are some that are reputable. People read comments like this and get discouraged because it leads them to believe that there is no use for high quality CBD hemp oil. I think that this is misinformation. For example, companies like CW Botanicals, the makers of Charlotte’s Web, make a good product that works for many people. And there are others. Sure, the ideal solution for pain is to be able to incorporate some THC in to the mix, but even if it’s not possible, CBD still works for many.


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