CAN CBD HELP WITH OPIOID ADDICTION?
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared opioid addiction a public health emergency. And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), more than 115 people die every day in the U.S. from opioid overdoses. Aside from the tragedy of lives (many young) lost too soon, this crisis costs the United States $78.5 billion a year.
With lawmakers and public health organizations scrambling to make changes to policy, what else is being done to help this crisis? Many are turning to CBD oil as a potential boon to help the opioid epidemic. How does CBD oil help decrease pain? How does it impact addiction? And how can it be used to prevent opioid addiction in the first place?
CAUSES OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC
Although there are a variety of complicated reasons why opioid addiction has become such a huge issue in the U.S., the HHS ties it in with practices in the late 1990s that pushed doctors to prescribe opioids for pain management. Because of the incredible rate of addiction, many people began to pursue prescription and non-prescription sources of opioids, which helped lead to the current crisis. Opioids were prescribed in the first place to mediate pain, but could CBD oil help fill that role instead?
CBD vs. opioids for pain management
CBD oil has been shown to be effective in reducing pain in several circumstances: inflammatory pain (such as in arthritis), cancer-related pain, and neuropathic pain. But how does it measure up to opioids?
First of all, more and more doctors have emerged as supporters of CBD for pain management in place of traditionally-used pain medications that cause addiction. In an article in AARP, Mikhail Kogan, MD, said the following about cannabinoids:
If you compare them to opiates, they’re about 10,000 times safer.
The World Health Organization agrees, stating that CBD is safe, non-toxic, and presents few side effects for users.
Researchers are catching on as well, comparing the effects of CBD and traditional opioids in lab tests and studies. In one survey of 2,987 patients, 97% of respondents agreed that they were able to reduce their pain-relieving opioid use when they used cannabis in conjunction. In addition, 81% agreed that cannabis on its own was just as powerful for relieving pain as opioids. Though this was a self-reported study, it offered a powerful insight into the possible role of cannabis in pain management.
Using CBD oil as an intervention before turning to opioid use could pre-preemptively eliminate the need for opioids. And phasing them in during treatment could less lessen the dosage in impact and need for opioids. Though more research needs to be done in this area, it’s a fascinating development in pain management techniques.
CBD and its role in addiction management
Many studies have shown that CBD oil is effective at managing pain with little adverse effects. In addition to possibly providing an alternative to opioids—or at least a possibility to work in conjunction with and lower the dosage of opioids—CBD has been studied for its ability to help people with addiction in general.
A 2018 study showed that CBD oil may be useful in addiction therapy. In the study, rats which were addicted to cocaine or alcohol were given CBD oil. The treatment decreased their overall anxiety and made them less likely to relapse back into their addictions.
One major study was conducted as a survey of 14 other studies—9 of which were undertaken in animals, and 5 of which involved human subjects. An analysis of these 14 studies has shown that CBD and its ability to modulate the “neuronal circuits” in the brain could be used to help humans with all sorts of addictive behavior, from tobacco to cocaine to opioids.
The opioid epidemic is a serious crisis that causes an inordinate amount of pain and cost in American society. Although many steps need to be taken by public health organizations, physicians, and consumers to combat this crisis, CBD oil could offer some hope. As researchers spend more time focusing on CBD’s ability to control pain and manage addiction, it could emerge as a serious resource to battle opioid addiction.
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