CBD and THC May Be The Cure For The Opioid Crisis

CBD and THC May Be The Cure For The Opioid Crisis

April 25th, 2019

The modern American addiction treatment conversation is full of uncertainties; however, there are two realities on which all stakeholders can absolutely agree: opioids are killing Americans in record numbers, and marijuana remains a deeply polarizing and politicized drug, the actual dangers of which lie somewhere between the lax attitude and hyperbole surrounding it. These two issues are now intersecting amid assertion that cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can be useful in the treatment many of the conditions for which patients are taking opioids. A recent article in Consumer Reports Magazine highlights the increasingly pervasive use of CBD while outlining ways many are using it for pain-related conditions for which powerful and addictive prescription opioids are all too commonly prescribed.

What Is CBD?

CBD is a compound found in marijuana and hemp that accounts for 40 percent of the plant’s extract. Unlike THC, CBD is not the compound in marijuana that leads to intoxication. The compound is sold in pill form, topical creams, edible goods, oils, and many other permutations, and has been used by a quarter of Americans at least once—one in seven of whom say they use it every day. CBD is primarily used by Americans in their mid-twenties; however, 15 percent of Americans over the age of sixty also say they consume the compound, representing a potential shift in the way they treat the everyday and long-term ailments that accompany the aging process. As of 2017, the market from CBD in hemp was over $325 million, and analysts are expecting it reach more than $20 billion over the next five years.

What Is CBD Used to Treat?

For years, researchers have been exploring the efficacy of CBD on a wide range of conditions, including but not limited to anxiety disorder, cognitive impairment, movement disorders, and pain. It is widely believed by researchers and users alike that CBD works to manage anxiety. A 2015 study from the NYU School of Medicine, among many others, indicates that CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors is relevant to multiple disorders—including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), personality disorder (PD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects. Another study from Ontario’s University of Guelph revealed the efficacy of CBD counteracting nausea and stomach illness. Data from Harvard Medical School indicates that CBD can be useful in the treatment of childhood epilepsy.

In an era in which more than forty-seven thousand Americans per year are dying of opioids, however, perhaps one of the promising discoveries related to the health benefits of CBD is its effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain and other pain-related conditions for which so many patients are taking powerful and addictive prescription opioids.

Can CBD Really Replace Opioids?

There is an increasingly growing body of research that indicates CBD’s efficacy in the treatment of pain-related conditions. One 2015 study from the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy published in the European Journal of Pain (EJP) indicates that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side effects. Other research indicates the CBD can inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.

Also reported was that 22 percent of CBD users who used it for health issues replaced prescriptions with their chosen CBD product. More than 35 percent said they replaced opioids like hydrocodone with CBD products. CBD has also proven particularly effective in joint, hip, and knee pain (these being some of the more common conditions associated with prescription painkiller use) as well as central nervous system issues.

One recent review from the University of Pittsburgh led by renowned clinical professor of neurology Joseph Maroon, MD reveals CBD’s potential to effectively manage depression, PTSD, and seizures. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription CBD medication for the treatment of seizure disorder. Overall, 63 percent of CBD users found the drug to be extremely effective in the management of the condition for which they were taking it, including their pain-related health issues.

Potential Side Effects of CBD

While the side effects of CBD products are relatively benign compared to powerful prescription opioids and even high-THC marijuana, they are a reality for many users and can include but are not limited to:

· Anxiety
· Shifts in appetite
· Changes in mood
· Intestinal distress
· Dizziness
· Drowsiness
· Dry mouth
· Nausea
· Fatigue

If you’re using CBD and have noticed these or any other symptoms, try adjusting your intake or speaking to your primary care physician directly. Each user’s body will process and handle CBD differently, and it’s important to be mindful of how your body reacts once you start using these products. It’s also important to realize that different forms of CBD can yield different levels of potency, whether they’re consumed by mouth or through the skin.

The Work Left to Be Done

As great as the potential may be for CBD to eventually supplant prescription opioids in many moderate pain-related conditions, there are still a variety of obstacles in the way. For one thing, CBD’s continuous relationship to marijuana comes with a stigma that can inform real policy, however misguided, that can delay treatment and slow progress. For another, there is considerably more clinical exploration that needs to be conducted on human subjects.

It’s clear, however, that amidst rampant over-prescription, rising rates of opioid fatalities, a heavy strain on the American healthcare system and the employer-based insurance industry, and continued erosion of quality of life for individuals and communities, patients suffering from pain-related conditions can certainly benefit from another means of symptom relief that doesn’t come with such high risk of addiction and the potential for withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with chronic pain or any other type of pain-related condition, you don’t have to automatically turn to opioids for relief. Consider alternate means of management, including occupational and physical therapy, as well as  CBD products. Stop letting fear, pain, and stigma ruin your life and get help now.


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