Opioid addiction is one of the greatest American healthcare crises. The problem is widespread and taking many lives. The National Institute On Drug Abuse indicates that 130 lives are lost due to opioid overdoses every day. A further 1.7 million Americans develop a substance abuse disorder on an annual basis. It has begun to reduce the average American life expectancy downward for the first time in generations. It will take a decade of data collection to definitively say what the life expectancy reduction is. Before the explosion of opioid addiction, life expectancy had been increasing steadily since the 1960s. On top of the humanitarian cost, the opioid crisis generates a yearly economic cost of $78 billion.
The opioid crisis has particularly ravaged the nation’s veteran community. Veterans are two times more likely than civilians to die from accidental overdoses.1
Doctors are searching for new ways to help their patients manage pain without prescribing opioids and help their patients already on opioids find alternate pain-management therapies.
Weaning a patient off of opioids to a less habit-forming regime is incredibly difficult. The withdrawal process can be uncomfortable at best and nearly unbeatable at its worst depending on the dosages a person has become accustomed to and how quickly an individual is weaned off.
Common withdrawal symptoms include widespread and extreme pain, nausea, vomiting, cravings, fever/cold sweats, and insomnia. Mental health concerns arise as well including anxiety and depression.
The best way to prevent opioid addiction is to find alternative pain management therapies.
Research indicates that cannabidiol (CBD) may be an effective pain management option, especially for Inflammatory Diseases. Animal studies have shown significant pain reduction when the subject is administered CBD. Human trials studying the effects of CBD to manage inflammation are ongoing but the anecdotal evidence is compelling.
Research indicates CBD and marijuana are effective aids while weaning off opioids. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in May 2018 which shows that “in states where people could legally use marijuana, the number of filled opioid prescriptions dropped significantly, and there were lower rates of opioid overdose and death, compared with states without legal cannabis. Though several factors could contribute to those results, researchers find the link between cannabis laws and declining opioid use intriguing.”2
CBD users have indicated a noticeable relief from their withdrawal symptoms, especially sleep, nausea and cravings. Some states like New York have even started prescribing cannabis-based products specifically to aid opioid withdrawals.
“Adding opioid replacement as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana offers providers another treatment option, which is a critical step in combating the deadly opioid epidemic,” New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, M.D., said.
With marijuana and hemp prohibition ending in more states, extensive long-term research is beginning to evaluate the efficacy of cannabis-based pain relief.
“Early research suggests that some cannabinoids or combinations of cannabinoids may have the potential to help people wean off opioids, but more rigorous studies are needed,” says Jeffrey Selzer, M.D., chair of the public policy committee for the American Society of Addiction Medicine and director of the Physician Resource Network at Northwell Health in Manhasset, N.Y.
Anyone looking to discontinue their use of opioids, prescribed or recreational, should do so with the supervision of a doctor. It is a journey that is not to be taken lightly but is well worth the effort and it can be done. Hopefully, CBD will be able to help you along the way.
-- Jeremy Hobbs
- Childress, S. (2016, March 28) Veterans Face Greater Risks Amid Opioid Crisis. PBS Frontline, retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/veterans-face-greater-risks-amid-opioid-crisis/
- Peachman, Rachel R. (2019, April 23) Can CBD Treat Opioid Addiction? Consumer Reports, retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/cbd/can-cbd-treat-opioid-addiction/