The United States is currently facing an overwhelming opioid epidemic. Doctors commonly prescribe opioid painkillers to patients who are suffering from severe and chronic pain. The medications attach to opioid receptors on nerve cells, effectively blocking pain. Unfortunately, opioids also carry a high risk of addiction and abuse, and according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, opioid overdose claim the lives of 78 Americans single everyday.
Findings in a new study suggest that cannabidiol (CBD), a natural non-psychoactive cannabinoid, may be able to help those who have become dependent on opioids.
After examining previous research, Yasmin L. Hurd, PhD, the Director of the Center for Addictive Disorders for the Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System, concluded that CBD is effective at reducing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with opioids.
CBD could be particularly beneficial for those using opioids because of their own pain-relieving properties. Both cannabinoids and opioids regulate the perception of pain, but do so differently. They affect different parts of the brain and how the pain sensation is transmitted between neurons. Evidence suggests that CBD can simultaneously reduce opioid dependence and manage pain.
“If you look at both drugs and where their receptors are, opioids are much more dangerous in part because of the potential for overdose. The opioid receptors are very abundant in the brainstem area that regulates our respiration so they shut down the breathing center if opioid doses are high,” said Dr. Hurd. “Cannabinoids do not do that. They have a much wider window of therapeutic benefit without causing an overdose in adults.”
Products that contain CBD that has been derived from hemp are excluded from the Controlled Substances Act and therefore legal to purchase and use under U.S. federal law. Individual state laws are dynamic and individual states may govern hemp-derived CBD. In most cases, however, CBD hemp oil products are legally available.
Dr. Hurd’s study was published this month in the medical journal Trends in Neurosciences and you can access it here.