Can CBD Reduce (or Replace) Opioid Usage?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of addiction in the U.S. Chronic pain remains all too common across the country, and many patients are looking for alternatives to opioids for pain treatment, management, and relief.

We all know how addictive prescription opioids can be. With counselors’ offices and mental health centers closed, some patients who are battling addiction can easily fall back to their old ways. Opioid usage can also damage the heart and lungs, making patients more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19.

We recently heard from American Marijuana, one of the largest cannabidiol (CBD) companies in the country; it turns out that many people believe CBD can replace opioids, helping patients curb their addiction and chronic pain without damaging their health in the process.

The Opioid Epidemic in 2020

The opioid epidemic was raging long before COVID-19 came around. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, back in 2018, 128 people were dying every day after overdosing on opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Thanks to the NIDA, we know that:

  • Roughly 21-29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8% and 12% develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4-6% who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

The coronavirus hasn’t made things any easier. With in-person medical facilities closed, many patients recovering from addiction have had to go it alone. They have had to rely on video conferencing and remote therapy groups instead of meeting face-to-face with counselors and others dealing with the same issue. This can make addiction all the more crippling. Individuals are also isolated from friends and family, and many may be unemployed as they ride out the pandemic.

Patients may overestimate their symptoms to get access to pain relievers. Doctors may also overprescribe drugs online with physical therapy, yoga, and other natural methods of relieving pain no longer available. Other patients may turn to heroin and illegal drugs if they can’t relieve their pain through traditional means.

According to the CDC, opioid usage disorder (OUD) can actually slow breathing, which can lead to shortness of breath and restrict the flow of oxygen. Many of those taking opioids are also at risk of developing chronic respiratory disease. They also tend to suffer from diminished lung capacity, which could make COVID-19 all the more deadly.

How CBD Can Help

CBD has exploded in popularity in recent years. You can find it online, in smoothies and shakes, at your local homeopathic store, or even at your neighborhood café.

Unlike traditional marijuana, it doesn’t contain THC, which is the part that causes a “high” sensation. It is derived from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. According to the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

CBD is often used to treat pain and anxiety, and can help people relax. It can also help with insomnia and reduce the number of seizures for those suffering from Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), both of which tend to affect children.

The company known as American Marijuana recently interviewed 1,453 Americans who use CBD for pain relief to see how well it performed compared to opioids. Around two-thirds of respondents use opioids regularly. Just over half identified themselves as millennials. Baby boomers, gen Z, and gen X made up the rest. According to the results:

  • 60% of CBD consumers use CBD to treat chronic pain, followed by migraine pain (34%), arthritis pain (28%), and cancer treatment pain (3%).
  • Smoking/vaping is the most common CBD administration method with 41%, followed by topical (32%), tincture/oil (31%), edibles (27%), capsules (26%), sublingual (9%).
  • 53% of CBD consumers use it as their ONLY pain relief medication.
  • 32% don’t feel any tolerance to CBD despite long-time consumption.
  • 44% NEVER experience any side effects.
  • Among 259 participants who regularly used opioids before CBD, 40.15% said they have completely STOPPED using opioids and 57.14% said they are still using opioids but with a reduced amount.

As you can see, the risks of taking and using CBD regularly are slim to none. Some side effects include nausea, fatigue, and irritability, but that pales in comparison to the deadly effects of opioids. Providers looking to treat patients suffering from chronic pain may be able to use CBD as an alternative to opioids. This could improve the health of the nation as we combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to read full study from American Marijuana.

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