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Miracle Drug Or Snake Oil? CBD Gaining Popularity As Medical Treatment

CHICAGO (CBS) -- "Amazing."

"A magic bullet."


Those are just some of the ways people describe cannabidiol, or CBD, a product they use to treat everything from pain to mental health conditions; but is it snake oil or the real deal?

Suzanne Le Mignot asks that question in this Original Report.

Vicki Rae Thorne has fibromyalgia, PTSD, and severe depression. After making diet and exercise changes, she started using CBD oil 10 months ago.

"I find my anxiety is highly reduced and my pain levels as well," she said.

CBD comes from hemp or marijuana plants, but contains little or no THC. So CBD products won't get you high.

"It's amazing and it changes lives," said a 14-year-old girl who has been using CBD capsules and gummies for a year.

She and her mother agreed to speak with us, if we concealed their identities. The teen suffers from an autoimmune disease, causing obsessive compulsive disorder and separation anxiety. She missed 264 classes in one school year.

"Sometimes I just like wouldn't get in the car, sometimes I would and we'd pull up to the school building and I like, I wouldn't get out of the car, 'cause like, I just couldn't," the teen said.

After CBD?

"I can hang out with my friends. I joined the debate team," she said.

Her mother really credits it with giving her her life back.

Dr. Melinda Ring is the Executive Director of Northwestern Medicine's Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. She has not treated the 14-year-old girl or Thorne.

"CBD oil is not snake oil nor is it a miracle drug," said Dr. Ring.

A couple of small studies have shown CBD reduces seizures in children.

And, the FDA just approved the first prescription drug, Epidiolex, for that purpose.

Dr. Ring is conducting her own patient surveys and has seen improvement in chronic pain issues like "arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and also in inflammatory or autoimmune issues, like Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis."

Demand for CBD is growing.

"It's allowing patients to feel better," said Kalee Hooghkirk who runs a clinic in West Dundee and recently organized a CBD trade show showcasing the oils as well as everything from teas to transdermal patches. Now, you can even find CBD products at Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market.

What does the future hold for CBD?

"Increasing scientific validation, more pharmaceutical options, and more direct to consumers," said Dr. Ring.

She adds that CBD is generally safe, but there are some rare side effects -- including sedation and elevated liver enzymes.

One other warning: some CBD products may still contain enough THC to show up as positive on drug tests. If that's a concern, look for zero-Isolate CBD products which contain no THC. CBD from marijuana is only sold in state dispensaries.

The product made from hemp is available at regular stores. Prices for hemp products we found, including capsules and oils, range from $19 to $80 depending on quantity and where you buy it.

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