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How CBD Can Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

Posted by Janna Champagne,RN on

At the time of this publication, the US Opioid Crisis claims 130 lives every day due to lethal overdose. Prescription opioids for medical use quickly create reliance and addiction in patients. In response, regulations are being enforced to reduce and limit opioid doses, leaving suffering patients to search for pain relief elsewhere.  According to the documentary “Warning: This Drug May Kill You”, opioid pain medications are the main gateway leading to misuse of unregulated street opioids such as heroin, an even deadlier prospect for its victims. This vicious cycle has become a serious national crisis jeopardizing public health as well as social and economic welfare.

The opioid crisis also contributes to increased incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome, due to opioid addiction continuing during pregnancy. Illicit street heroin IV drug use has also contributed to the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the cost of prescription opioid abuse, in the United States alone, is a staggering $78.5 billion per year.

It’s helpful to remember these aren’t just statistics, but real people losing their lives (or quality of life) due to legally-prescribed pharmaceutical opioids. Safe alternatives to address pain syndromes in these patients could bring relief and potentially spare their life and well-being.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is actively searching for a solution to the opioid crisis, and we propose that Cannabidiol offers a viable option.

Many studies support Cannabidiol (CBD) for its pain-relieving properties, reflecting that CBD may potentially address the root of our opioid crisis.   Especially since CBD’s safety profile is well established, since it has been used historically for thousands of years without a single report of addiction or harmful side effects.  

What is CBD?

CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the plant Cannabis Sativa L (hemp), a form of cannabinoid that is FDA approved and legal throughout the US.

CBD is a safe, non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid that promotes systemic homeostasis through its interactions with Endocannabinoid and other receptor system pathways.

Many are hesitant about Cannabidiol, due to confusing CBD with its cannabinoid counterpart Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the infamous high response. However, CBD is not intoxicating, and will actually reverse the intoxicating effects of THC since it partially blocks the CB1 receptor producing the high. Therefore, CBD allows patients to experience the numerous profound health benefits of cannabis without any concerns about intoxication.

How CBD Can Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

There is growing research supporting that CBD may help reduce opioid reliance and manage the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

One study observed 300 people using high dose opioids to control pain over a two month period, who reduced their opioid intake by 60 percent within a three week period of taking CBD. Follow up data collection reflected the pain-relieving benefits for research subjects continued long-term, and subsequently a majority of them were successfully weaned off opioids completely after two months.

Other studies support CBD may both reduce addictive behavior, and also ease the symptoms from opiate withdrawal during the weaning and recovery process. Withdrawal symptoms vary from mild to severe, and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, muscle spasms, anxiety, agitation, restlessness, and insomnia.

Since most opioid addictions begin with pain treatments prescribed by a physician, offering a non-addictive alternative to pain management could make a huge impact on this national crisis.

CBD has the most research-supported applications of any cannabinoid, and more health benefits are still being discovered. The potential of its future applications in the medical field is limitless! For more information regarding CBD, please click here.

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