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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an opioid crisis has emerged in the United States. As announced in a January 2019 press release, NIDA estimates that 130 people die due to opioid overdose from drugs such as codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone each day. Opioids were involved in nearly 70 percent of the […]

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an opioid crisis has emerged in the United States. As announced in a January 2019 press release, NIDA estimates that 130 people die due to opioid overdose from drugs such as codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone each day. Opioids were involved in nearly 70 percent of the 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017. Some health oversight organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have labeled the opioid crisis an epidemic.  

In the midst of this epidemic, during which it is estimated that more than 80,000 people experiment with heroin in a single year, doctors and wellness professionals are seeking treatment options for both the negative symptoms of opioid addiction and also to assist those with substance abuse issues. 

Dr. Dustin Sulak is a medical doctor in Maine who specializes in osteopathy and uses CBD in his clinical practice. “In the United States, nearly 50 percent of people who take opioids for more than 30 days in the first year continue to use opioids for three years or longer,” said Sulak. 

This trend of long-term use leads to problems such as abuse, addiction, and sometimes a transition to dangerous street drugs like heroin (especially in cases where pain patients become addicted to opioids but are denied further prescriptions). According to Sulak, “Nearly 80 percent of heroin users in the United States reported using prescription opioids before initiating heroin use.” 

How Does CBD Help?

Many wellness practitioners have begun to integrate CBD and other cannabinoids from hemp extracts into their practices. One of them is Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a Harvard-trained physician who personally experienced opioid addiction and treats many patients who have experienced addiction issues. 

“As a healthcare provider [and] someone who has been addicted to opiates, I understand how utterly and completely opiates can hijack one’s brain and start, in effect, calling the shots and making the decisions,” said Grinspoon during a 2019 interview. 

Grinspoon believes that CBD and other cannabinoids from hemp are valuable tools for wellness professionals. “There is some interesting new research about CBD’s potential role in alleviating addiction to opiates, as well as to stimulants, nicotine, and alcohol,” he said.   

Nika Beamon, a writer in New York City, was experiencing “debilitating withdrawal symptoms” when attempting to wean off tramadol, an opioid analgesic (pain killer). After integrating a CBD tincture into her treatment regimen, Beamon described the results as “revolutionary.” “I sleep through the night, finally, without waking up in pain. That’s a complete relief to me,” she said. More important: The CBD has allowed Beamon to no longer rely upon or consume opioids in any form.

“In my experience, withdrawal symptom reduction is one of the most important functions of CBD to help opioid patients curb their dependence,” said Colleen Kibler, a state-licensed cannabis caregiver in Belgrade, Maine during an exclusive interview with Vegas Cannabis. “People who bravely choose to work toward reducing their opioid dependence often experience a number of uncomfortable side effects,” she said. 

Kilber explained how the majority of her patients have a need for pain management. “CBD’s anti-inflammatory component naturally reduces many types of pain for which opioids may have originally been prescribed,” she said. When queried about other ways in which CBD has been helpful to her patients who are attempting to reduce their dependence upon opioids, Kibler cited a reduction in anxiety. 

“Bouts of anxiety and nausea are often reported to me during the first weeks of weaning,” said Kibler. She reported that she recommends to her patients the relatively fast bioavailability delivered by microdosing full-spectrum hemp products containing CBD. Kibler considers desktop and mobile vaporizers to be good tools for such microdosing. ”Body tension and sleepless nights are regular complaints that can be addressed with hemp-derived CBD,” she said. 

Research Studies

A wide range of peer-reviewed research has been conducted regarding the ability of hemp-derived cannabinoids such as CBD to assist those attempting to deal with addiction to opioids. Often, patients desire simply to decrease their consumption of these powerful pharmaceutical drugs in an effort to decrease the occurrence of negative side effects and improve overall health.

Patients who suffer chronic pain, especially of a severe nature, must seek viable alternate solutions if they are to decrease or eliminate opioids from their lifestyle.        

A 2019 research study entitled “CBD Can Help Dampen Cravings For Opioids, Potentially Adding Weapon In Fight Against Crisis” that was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry investigated the efficacy of CBD in the treatment of heroin addiction. The study observed, “Patients treated with cannabidiol (CBD) reported lower cravings for heroin or other opioids than did patients who were either given a placebo or no treatment at all.” The researchers concluded, “As states and public health experts scramble to contain the drug epidemic, the findings could provide some hope.” 

A 2017 research study entitled “Effects of Cannabidiol on Morphine Conditioned Place Preference in Mice” that was published in the journal Planta Medica explored the ability of CBD to reduce cravings for morphine. The study concluded, “The finding that cannabidiol blocks opioid reward suggests that this compound may be useful in addiction treatment settings.”

A 2015 research study entitled “Cannabidiol as an Intervention for Addictive Behaviors: A Systematic Review of the Evidence” that was published in the journal Libertas Academica investigated the ability of CBD summarized “the available preclinical and clinical data on the impact of CBD on addictive behaviors.” 

Reported the study’s authors, “human studies presented some preliminary evidence of a beneficial impact of CBD on tobacco dependence.” The study found CBD to possess therapeutic properties that make it helpful in the treatment of addiction disorders, including a “protective effect on stress vulnerability and neurotoxicity.” 

Concluded the study, “The dreadful burden of substance-use disorder worldwide, combined with the clear need for new medication in the addiction field, justifies the requirement of further studies to evaluate the potential of CBD as a new intervention for addictive behaviors.” 

A 2009 study entitled “Cannabidiol Inhibits Cue-induced Heroin Seeking and Normalizes Discrete Mesolimbic Neuronal Disturbances” that was published in The Journal of Neuroscience explored the effect of CBD treatment on “drug-seeking behavior.”  

The study found that “CBD had a protracted effect with significance evident after 24 hours and even two weeks after administration. The behavioral effects were paralleled by neurobiological alterations in the glutamatergic and endocannabinoid systems.” Concluded the researchers, “The findings highlight the unique contributions of distinct…constituents to addiction vulnerability and suggest that CBD may be a potential treatment for heroin craving and relapse.”  

Curt Robbins is a technical writer, instructional designer, and lecturer who has been developing science-based educational and training content for Fortune 200 enterprises for more than 30 years. His clients have included Federal Express, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Northrop Grumman, National City Bank, Strainprint Technologies Ltd., the J.M. Smucker Company, and USAA. 

Robbins has developed more than 600 educational articles regarding hemp and its various health components, including terpenes, cannabinoids, and the human endocannabinoid system. He currently serves as Director of Curriculum Development for Higher Learning LV™ based in Las Vegas. Robbins can be found on Twitter at @RobbinsGroupLLC and Instagram at curt_robbins_cannabis_writer.





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