Interview with Jacob Miguel Vigil, PhD
We are very excited to share another insightful interview with our community. This time we had the pleasure talking to Jacob Miguel Vigil, PhD. He is an associate professor in the Psychology Department at the University of New Mexico and is working in the area of medical cannabis research.
Get in touch with Jacob M. Vigil, PhD:
You can now also support the revolutionary work of Mr. Vigil by donating to the Medical Cannabis Research Fund. All donations go to the logistical costs of conducting research (e.g., supplies and participant payments), as well as student scholarships for future (graduate and undergraduate) research training.
Donate here: https://www.unmfund.org/fund/mcrfund/
Could you introduce yourself and share more about what you’re doing and what your focus is?
Jacob Miguel Vigil: My name is Jacob Miguel Vigil, I’m a full-time medical cannabis researcher at the University of New Mexico in the psychology department. Upon promotion and tenure I decided to devote my professional skills to try to help as many people as possible through my exclusive prioritization of medical cannabis research. Due to the lack of funding opportunities available to researchers in my position, I decided to establish what I call the University of New Mexico Medical Cannabis Research Fund (MCRF; http://mcrf.unm.edu). The MCRF was designed to support the logistical costs of basic research supplies and other investigation costs such as participant payments, as well as to provide educational and training scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. I am trying to essentially fund an entire research program through private donations and without the need for federal support, which unfortunately is still currently scarce.
Why did you decide to focus your research around the medical benefits of cannabis (and CBD)?
I decided to focus exclusively on medical cannabis including hemp, because I got tired of seeing so many of my fellow community members suffering from the negative side effects and often ineffectiveness of conventional pharmaceutical medications. I call this type of suffering “secondary victimization.” I have interacted with thousands of medical cannabis patients that have convinced me that this power plant offers much more potential than the majority of us are currently aware. That is why we decided to form a social media platform around education of the general public about the safety and medicinal applications of using cannabis. We call the platform and particularly the YouTube channel, Cannabis Connection University (https://youtu.be/JGNlfxgFMVc). We decided on this name to be the most inclusive for folks at different levels of education and expertise, and all those who seek scientific information, including patients, health providers, people in the Cannabis industry, and fellow scientists.
Can you share more about your research on new methods and challenges of targeting the endocannabinoid system?
Conducting research on patient outcomes of pharmacodynamic effects of consuming the Cannabis plant in and of itself is quite difficult for several reasons. First of all there are limited funding opportunities as I mentioned. There are also incredibly arduous and nonsensical federal barriers to obtaining permission to administer medical cannabis to patients or participants in a research study. There also remains the challenge of dealing with the stigma of anything that may promote awareness of the benefits of the plant within academia and the medical community. And finally, there remain tremendous challenges in publishing this work that is often times in direct conflict with the financial opportunities of conventional pharmaceutical manufacturers, and hence one of the most significant sources of revenue for many ‘so-called’ scientific or medical journals. In order to overcome some of these challenges we focus a lot on observational research designs which do not require federal permission, but also allow us to study of the effects of the breadth of Cannabis–based widely used everyday by millions of people under real life conditions, oftentimes in real time with the application of mobile software, for example.
From a historical perspective and your research, how would you describe the benefits of CBD?
There is a long natural history showing the consumption and medicinal benefits of using cannabis, a history that spans thousands of years and maybe longer. The current re-emergence of interest in the therapeutic applications of the hemp plant are founded on recent animal model studies and experiments showing that prominent cannabinoids such as CBD demonstrate tremendous potential across a vast array of health conditions and physiological mechanisms. Our own results showed that cannabinoids such as CBD are particularly effective at treating many health conditions, such as insomnia (https://www.mdpi.com/2305-6320/5/3/75). These findings formally corroborate the hundreds of personal testimonies that I have personally witnessed from grateful consumers of the cannabis plant.
Can you give us more details about the health benefits and risks? How CBD affects the body?
There is emerging evidence that CBD in particular can operate as an analgesic, an antipsychotic, an anti-seizure medication, an anxiolytic, and an anti-inflammatory and neurogenic medication. There is also amazing research that has recently shown that CBD can affect different aspects of cancer that improve patient outcomes. I’m not only talking about increasing appetite and reducing pain levels, but actually cutting off blood supplies to cancer cells inhibiting their ability to migrate throughout the body and proliferate, all of which leading to improved patient outcomes.
CBD is available everywhere, it seems. Do you have any advice on what would be the most effective way to consume CBD? What dosage would you recommend?
Honestly, I seem to hear so many different anecdotes about people’s preferred cannabis products and methods of delivery that I truly don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all. Because of the heterogeneous nature of the cannabis plant every patient is required to experiment and continuously engage in trial and error. I personally think this is a good thing because it forces us to monitor health decisions and allows us to make adjustments accordingly, giving the individual an important sense of control in their life. What other medication offers such eclectic characteristics from which patients have the opportunity to choose?
Do you think using CBD in psychotherapy can be more effective than traditional methods?
I think there is the potential for cannabis to be used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapies. Cannabis tends to induce an appreciation of the moment, block intrusive stressors, and enable a heightened focus on singular percepts. This could be an extremely helpful tool in facilitating patients through certain types of therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness therapy. It may also be the case that Cannabis in and of itself offers more therapeutic potential than either of those two therapies alone. For example, we have found that a sense of peacefulness is the most frequently reported side effect of cannabis use. One can only imagine how cannabis, when methodically applied, may help reduce not only chronic pain, but also anxiety and depression, all three of which are currently raging epidemics in our society.
For which conditions can CBD be most beneficial?
I can attest to first-hand observations of hemp oil treating individuals with seizures, heavy metal toxicity, anxiety and depressive disorders, chronic pain, and cancer, as well as various significant health disturbances in children.
Is there still a lot of research to be done or do we know all the benefits of CBD and medical cannabis already?
We know absolutely nothing about the contents and actions of the phytochemicals in the cannabis plant and how they interact with the complexities of the human condition. This has be the end result of America’s shameful history of Cannabis prohibition. Humans are comprised of complex physiological systems including the brain as well as systems that are not tangible to perceptual description, such as the mind, or consciousness. I have to admit that it will take an extremely long time before we know how the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other constituents of the cannabis plant affect the human condition. Just imagine how long it would take to test multiple interactions between thousands of medicinal compounds in the cannabis plant using an old-fashioned clinical experimental approach. This type of research design is obviously inefficient. That is why we were engaging in large observational research designs that are capturing descriptions of the multitude of products that are currently available to people throughout United States. By analyzing these huge databases we are able to statistically begin to separate some of the distinct effects of those product characteristics such as cannabinoid potency levels, types of products, etc.
Anything we should watch out with CBD? Are there any side effects our readers should know about?
With regard to any potential negative side effects of using the hemp plant or products made from hemp, I am honestly hard-pressed to think of any. We know that using Cannabis particularly with high THC can be associated with many non-significant or non-severe negative side effects, such as confusion. So, even cannabis with high THC is relatively safe, when contrasted with many classes of prescription medications. But as far as hemp is concerned, I think the most likely downsides may be the potential for addiction, the high costs of obtaining hemp relative to subsidize prescription medications, or perhaps some of the inconveniences of the types of products and routes of administration that currently exist such as the combustion of whole dried natural flower, which can level a unique smell on the consumer or the consumer’s clothes. Although I must say, our own research has shown that dried flower is often times more effective at treating patients intended health symptom than other types of products, on average.
Future of medical cannabis and CBD
Where do you see the future going with both, medical cannabis and CBD in the US and worldwide?
I have often described cannabis as an existential threat to the pharmaceutical industry. I personally believe that it has a place in nearly everybody’s life in one form or another for one reason or another. When comparing apples to apples, that is the relative effectiveness and negative side effects of Cannabis compared to other types of prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs, Cannabis often wins out. Our own research has shown that patients will often substitute their chronic prescription medications in favor of using Cannabis once given the legal opportunity to do so. Our results show that this greatly reduces the insurance costs for those patients that are given this access. When extrapolated to the remainder of the country we predict that the insurance industry will save billions of dollars once more patients are given legal access to Cannabis and/or start using hemp products. This is going to affect many domains of our society, many industries, and likely shifts in basic societal characteristics such as reductions in aggression, domestic violence, homicide, and other types of interpersonal crimes. That is what I predict.
Do you foresee CBD being mainstream in cosmetics and food in 5 years from now?
In five years I anticipate that Cannabis will be available as a high-end produce and other grocery markets, and will take hold as a foundational component in the manufacturing of many different types of materials which will be used to engineer different types of conventional products in novel ways, hopefully in way that are more environmentally focused and efficient.
Do you believe in health benefits of CBD in cosmetics/food or is it just an overrated hype?
The human benefits from having legal access and the ability to consume and otherwise utilize Cannabis cannot be overstated. It is the most powerful plant on this planet. There is no other medication that offers such a wide therapeutic potential and wide margin of safety as well as the potential to be used for industrial purposes. There is also no other similar substance on Earth that can induce positive cognitive shifts in how we think about ourselves and other people. Again, this probably goes back to the sense of peacefulness and the basic human need to experience this state of being.