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CBD: The Cannabinoid That is Conquering the Opioid Crisis

Contributor: Karhlyle Fletcher

America is facing one of the most pressing crises to enter the country. Across the nation, people of all ages, success levels and tax brackets are overdosing on opioids – a class of legal painkillers. On the black market, illegal opioids including cheaper options like heroin and Fentanyl are also contributing to the crisis. From 1999 to 2017, an increase in opioid overdose deaths was reported (from 3,442 deaths related to prescription opiate overdoses in 1999). By 2017 there were over 47,000 Americans who lost their lives to opiate overdose reported annually. The staggering rate of opioid overdoses in 2017, was six times higher than in 1999, leaving Americans terrified of what global health authorities are still calling a crisis. (1)
CBD: The Cannabinoid That is Conquering the Opioid Crisis

“Of course, that’s so dependent on the person’s mental state,” says Lex Pelger, Science Director for Bluebird Botanicals and host of the Greener Grass Podcast. “If you’re in a lousy situation, it will still be a lousy situation.

But if you’re in a conducive environment, a woman will experience more pleasure.”

The Growing Health Crisis of Opioid Addiction

Conservative pundits have been promising that this harrowing health crisis is due to the dangerous gateway drug, marijuana. With money from the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries, politicians spewed propaganda about the plant as a drug and prohibited Schedule I substance for decades. Pot was supposedly leading children to use needles to inject black tar heroin acting as a, “gateway,” to drug addiction. However, more recent research published in the Journal of School Health shows that marijuana is not associated with the theory of a gateway drug.(2)

CBD: The Cannabinoid That is Conquering the Opioid Crisis
These voices failed to mention a few choice statistics, including that 21 to 29 percent of those prescribed opiate painkillers abuse them or that 8 to 12 percent of painkiller patients develop opiate abuse disorder.
Around 80 percent of those suffering from heroin abuse disorder, started with a legal opiate prescription. This has been largely ignored by anti-cannabis pundits as the Midwest saw a 70 percent increase in opioid use from July 2016 to September 2017. Recently, President Trump boasted about reducing the price of prescription medications, but there is still a live discussion about the effect the medical industrial complex has on the public. (3)
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Meanwhile, in 2019, 10 states have fully legalized cannabis use and 24 states maintain a mixed legislation. The nation is yearning for legalization and studies show that states with legalized cannabis see fewer overdoses from prescription medications than the states without it. According to Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, the lead behind one of the studies, states with legalized cannabis see around a 25 percent lower rate of opioid overdose.(4)

Can CBD Replace Opioid Therapy?

Cannabis contains Cannabidiol (CBD), as well as other potent cannabinoid compounds making it an efficacious option for opioid replacement therapy. As a natural pain-reliever, cannabinoids allow some patients to replace the use of painkillers with cannabis or hemp-derived medicines. Because many opioid overdoses occur in situations where the victim had a prescription for chronic pain or another valid purpose, cannabis and hemp products may lower overdose risk.

CBD: The Cannabinoid That is Conquering the Opioid Crisis

On May 21, 2019, Scientific American published Cannabis Compound Eases Anxiety and Cravings of Heroin Addiction. The findings are promising, only further solidifying what earlier articles have theorized.

Previously, there were not enough studies to make clear points, but now the science proves why cannabis is effective not as a gateway to drug abuse, but as a gateway to recovery. (5) The most difficult aspect of quitting an addiction is not stopping the use of the substance. From cigarettes to heroin, the act of simply stopping isn’t where most people struggle. It is through the exposure to environments that either inspired the addiction or facilitated it. Again, using smoking as an example, it is much harder to quit smoking when you work for a boss that you hate or when it is your primary way of meeting new people. If cigarettes are used as a social crutch or to deal with stress, a smoking addiction can easily be triggered when you have anxiety. The hardest part about quitting is saying, “No,” to the drug when you find yourself back where you needed to use it in the first place.
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For opioid users, this is a serious threat as a visit to a dealer’s home can cause a relapse and begin the dangerous (and often deadly) cycle of opioid use once again. Methadone and buprenorphine are leading medications used to help wean the user from a physical reliance on opioids, but they do not quell the psychic hunger.

Leading the Way of Opioid Recovery with CBD

Cannabis itself is not a solution to opioid addiction, as the flower of cannabis is a complex medication which can lead to unintended effects that may obstruct treatment. What cannabis has to offer instead is CBD, isolated from the other cannabinoids contained within flower. CBD is proven to be a potent medicine in the treatment of epilepsy and other illnesses. On May 21, 2019, The American Journal of Psychiatry published Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder. This scientific trial focused on the use of CBD to treat drug addicted people recovering from heroin abuse disorder. (6)

Using different dosages of CBD (400mg and 800mg), researchers compared the results to the effects of a placebo. The double-blind study revealed inspiring results. You see, after giving the subjects these two dosages daily for three days, researchers found that participants who were treated with CBD had less anxiety scores surrounding heroin use along with reduced cravings for it (even when they were shown imagery that could trigger them). Results of this study confirm these are not delivered with a placebo as the short-term and long-term results were seen in CBD participants.

CBD: The Cannabinoid That is Conquering the Opioid Crisis

The human endocannabinoid system is a natural, complex network that affects every part of the body. Within each cell of your skin, bone, tendons, muscle and brain, cannabinoids are involved in processes related to the health of your stress levels, appetite, memory, immunity and so much more! When opioid users are exposed to triggering imagery, their endocannabinoid system must respond to the situation, handle the anxiety and recover from the stress. CBD supports the endocannabinoid system of your body allowing you to relax easier and thus avoid using opioids.

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Is Cannabis a Hope for Opioid Users?

There are currently not enough cannabis studies to make definitive claims, however, what researchers have found is incredibly promising. Current research indicates that low doses of CBD (a non-addictive, non-psychoactive and affordable medicine), can help those struggling with opioid addiction. While medical cannabis is a new industry, further research will reveal more about the abilities of this exciting new option for opioid abuse relief.

Further, as recreational cannabis continues to push forward the usage of this essential plant medicine, smokers can provide even more useful information to the cannabis community. If cannabis is to become a fully-fledged medicine and thus respected by our society, it must become consistently measured and easily digestible.

Cannabis derived capsules, topicals and concentrates make the most waves in the cannabis community and they help patients across the nation. Continue to support those who deserve natural, sustainable medicine they can trust by checking back with us here every month for more information. Make a comment below and be sure to share this article on your own social media page to help spread the word about CBD replacement for opioid recovery.


  • Center for Disease Control. Opioid Overdose.
  • Marijuana: The Gateway Drug Myth. Psychology Today.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioid Overdose Crisis. January 2019.
    HEALTH NEWSMARCH 27, 2017 / 1:49 PM / 2 YEARS AGO. Would legalizing medical marijuana help curb the opioid epidemic?
  • Emily Willingham on May 21, 2019. Cannabis Compound Eases Anxiety and Cravings of Heroin Addiction.
  • Hurd YL, Spriggs S. Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2019 May 21:appiajp201918101191.

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