The United States is currently going through a nationwide opioid epidemic, not seen since the days of the Vietnam War. If in 1992, there were roughly 112 million opioid prescriptions, by 2016 that number ballooned to more than 236 million.
Percocet and Vicodin, an oxycodone and hydrocodone, respectively, are the two most prescribed opioids in the US. In 2016, alone, more than 5 billion oxycodone and over 6.2 billion hydrocodone pills were prescribed across the country. It places Americans at 99.7% of the entire hydrocodone market in the world.
With this overwhelming number of opioids prescribed to American citizens daily, it’s no surprise to find out that there were over 63,000 overdose deaths in 2016. Of these, 42,000 represent deaths related to both legal and illegal opioids, reaching a daily death average of 115. The unfortunate part about all of this is that the majority of these opioids are prescribed for muscle and joint pain.
The question is whether there may be a safer alternative to these opioids, as an effective pain relief method?
CBD and Pain Management
It’s important to note that roughly one in five adult Americans is suffering from chronic pain, in one form or another. For most, prescription drugs are a necessary evil they need to live with daily. Unfortunately, however, these medications are not cures but only symptom-treaters, which means that, in time, they can do more harm than good.
Numerous studies show that CBD and its natural products offer a possible alternative to traditional NSAID or opioid pain management. CBD or cannabidiol is a natural, non-intoxicating chemical compound extracted from cannabis plants such as hemp and marijuana. Unlike another compound found in these plants (THC), CBD doesn’t hold any psychoactive properties, meaning that it will not get you high.
Aside from pain management, various CBD products are used to treat a range of health issues such as anxiety, PTSD, high blood pressure, treatment-resistant epileptic seizures, etc. That said, what are the potential uses of CBD for managing pain?
How Does CBD Reduce Pain?
Back in the 1990s, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS) within humans and most other animals. The ECS is part of the nervous system as a whole, including the brain, spine, and peripheries. Its purpose is to regulate numerous physiological and cognitive processes such as appetite, mood, fertility, sleep, energy levels, memory, stress, immune response, and pain sensation.
The ECS is composed of numerous cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, which are influenced by CBD with multiple outcomes. When it comes to pain relief, CBD inhibits enzymes that cause pain surging through the nervous system. Besides, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, an underlying cause for many pain-related conditions.
CBD and Arthritis Pain
Several studies conducted on CBD and its effect on both Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Osteoarthritis (OA) have shown promise in treating associated pain. Its main effects are on the CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system by reducing pain and inflammation. These studies have also demonstrated that for arthritic pain, CBD creams and balms are the most effective when applied locally on the joints as it bypasses the gastrointestinal system.
CBD and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the entire body via the central nervous system, including the brain. Muscle spasms are among the most common symptoms of MS and can result in constant pain for most sufferers. One 2018 study has concluded that CBD supplementation can “reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity, and ultimately improve mobility.”
CBD and Chronic Pain
A comprehensive review that has analyzed multiple trials and studies have also concluded that there is sufficient evidence to find that CBD can be an effective treatment for chronic pain. Research also indicates that while CBD can reduce pain and inflammation, users will not build up a tolerance. It means that there will be no need to increase the dose over time.
Can CBD Be a Good Alternative to Opioids?
When it comes to CBD as an alternative to opioids, some preliminary studies indeed say so. In a 2017 scientific research, for instance, CBD and medicinal marijuana were seen as potential alternatives to opioids for those suffering from joint and muscle pain. A 2014 study, on the other hand, concluded that opioid-related deaths were 24.8% lower in states where medicinal cannabis was already legal at that time.
A somewhat similar study from 2016, this time performed on 244 patients in a Michigan hospital, observed a 64% decrease in overall opioid use, fewer side effects of other medications, and a 45% increase in the quality of life. Furthermore, a different study from that same year found that 44% of the 176 opioid-prescribed patients were able to discontinue their opioid therapy altogether after seven months of using CBD or medicinal cannabis.
What these studies stand to indicate is that CBD could be a safe alternative to opioids.
CBD as a Potentiator for Opioids
There is also a strong case for using opioids and CBD in combination. For starters, there’s no possibility to overdose on CBD. Opioids are another matter. Aside from pain management, opioids also stimulate receptors in the cardio-respiratory (heart and breathing) centers of the brain. If the opioid dose is too high, this can prove fatal. These brain areas hold no cannabinoid receptors, however, meaning that CBD doesn’t affect them. But there are a lot of cannabinoids and opioid receptors in the brain’s pain-sensitive regions.
The therapeutic index increases under medical supervision; when CBD and opioids are combined. And while there is still an inherent risk associated with opioid use, it’s dose can be lowered since CBD acts as a potentiator for opiates. In other words, you can get the same pain relief benefits by lowering the daily dose of opioids.
CBD for Opioid Dependence and Withdrawal
It’s also worth mentioning that CBD can be used as a tool for opioid dependence and withdrawal. Though further research is needed and the process is not entirely understood, studies show that CBD can be used to alleviate the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Ultimately, all the information gathered from the preclinical and clinical research mentioned above highlight the potential of CBD as being a safe replacement or adjuvant for those undergoing an opioid-based treatment for pain management. For more information on the usefulness of CBD, feel free to check out our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.