The previous one from twenty years prior was well-documented, though the current state of the nation’s pain management protocol has been rooted in administering opioids despite history’s warning signs. These are the very opioids that produce a snowball effect leading to dependency, addiction, financial crisis, and in many cases, death. Further, prescription opioid addiction very easily translates to heroin addiction, bumping the aforementioned concerns even further up the priority scale.
The HHS revealed in a 2017 report that 11.4 million people misused prescription opioids (2.1 million suffering from an opioid misuse disorder), with 47,600 dying from opioid overdoses, 28,466 coming from synthetic opioids outside of methadone. In 2019, it was confirmed that opioid abuse claims over 130 lives daily. The term “epidemic” is apropos.
Now more than ever, the concept of alternative methods to achieve pain management is vital to the health industry given the current statistics surrounding how Americans ease their physical (and even mental) pain. First, it’s important to understand just why and how individuals fall into an abuse cycle with prescription medications.
In the world of pain management, the goal is to relieve pain through what’s perceived as simple measures, though the reactions can be complex. Prescription drugs can yield a multi-tiered response throughout the human body. This is in part due to how opioids work in the first place. When opioids enter the body, they attach to various opioid receptors, in places such as the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. Opioids then send out signals directing the brain to block out feelings of pain, which in turn successfully reduces the sensation of pain. While pain is theoretically managed—thus why opioids are a common solution and FDA-approved method for pain management—the central nervous system is also affected, producing a euphoric feeling that ultimately “crashes” and leads to severe physical withdrawal. The only relief is more opioids, and so begins the cycle.
However, it’s more complicated than imaginable, especially factoring in how any individual who uses opioids is at risk for developing an addiction, even when following the proper protocol as recommended by a prescribing medical professional. Opioids—while pain-relieving by nature—can inhibit respiratory function, create intestinal issues, and lead to potential overall organ damage.
Prolonged use of opioids can lead to a variety of ailments due to resulting in permanent changes in brain function, which in turn can lead to physical damage. It’s for this reason that symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shaking, diarrhea, insomnia and physical pain are immediate responses following withdrawal. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opioid withdrawal symptoms typically last between three and five days, although they can last up to 10 days. Due to the ranging severity of withdrawal symptoms stemming from opioid use—with opioid withdrawal syndrome even being considered a life-threatening condition, and factoring in varying degrees of dependence—it is difficult to break the cycle. On top of that, prolonged opioid use leads to tolerance, which in turn requires a higher dose to feel the desired effects and ultimately increases the likelihood of negative health consequences. As we wage another war on drugs, the onus is now placed on drug-free pain management.
Prolonged use of opioids can lead to a variety of ailments due to resulting in permanent changes in brain function, which in turn can lead to physical damage. It’s for this reason that symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shaking, diarrhea, insomnia and physical pain are immediate responses following withdrawal.
For decades, the concept of cannabis-use for pain management has endured a love-hate relationship with modern medicine. We’ve often learned of the benefits of cannabis for pain management, leading to many states adopting the legalization of medicinal marijuana. As CBD has now entered the ring, there’s a whole new platform for pain management that may allow Americans to leave opioids alone once and for all.
It should come as no surprise that the function of opioids is not to heal the body. Rather, it’s to rewire the brain into distinguishing between what’s perceived as pain and what’s not. Many synthetic drugs carry this same “band-aid” effect, where the goal is not to heal the body, it’s to mask the damage currently taking place. The term hyperalgesia is used to describe the potential increase in pain sensitivity that many are susceptible to, following prolonged opioid abuse.
With the incorporation of CBD in pain management practices, the goal is to heal the body while simultaneously eliminating the sensation of pain. CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory (a key component of pain relief), repairing damaged cells throughout the body. The addition of THC produces a natural pain relieving effect that provides relaxation while actual healing is taking place. This allows for a non-addictive means to manage pain without withdrawal should an individual stop administering the CBD.
The goal is to heal the body while simultaneously eliminating the sensation of pain. CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory (a key component of pain relief), repairing damaged cells throughout the body.
The trend is slowly growing. In a recent study conducted by High Yield Insights, around 40% of adult Americans (age 21 and up) have expressed an interest in CBD use, though that number will surely increase as awareness is built around CBD’s role in functional pain management. Already, nearly 62% of individuals who use CBD are using it with the intent to assist with the treatment of medical conditions per the U.S. National Library of Medicine / National Institutes of Health. Of those conditions, the primary ones were pain, anxiety, and depression. 36% of those users treated with CBD by itself and received a favorable response.
Additionally, an August 2019 study published in the journal Economic Inquiry, found that the legalization of adult-use cannabis played a direct role in reducing opioid overdose deaths by 21%. Given that there were a reported 47,600 deaths as a result of opioid use in the United States in 2017, this would potentially equate to nearly 10,000 lives being saved. While research focusing on CBD usage specifically remains ongoing, a report published earlier this year in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBD holds “significant promise” for treating individuals impacted by opioid addiction. The Mount Sinai-conducted study found that CBD—when compared to a placebo or no treatment at all—helped reduce anxiety and other drug-cue induced cravings in the participants. While such research is in the early stages, these preliminary findings are a source of hope in combating the opioid drug epidemic.
The Mount Sinai-conducted study found that CBD—when compared to a placebo or no treatment at all—helped reduce anxiety and other drug-cue induced cravings in the participants.
The means to administer CBD for pain management can vary. From oral use (oils, capsules, tinctures, etc.) to topical (patches, creams, etc.) CBD has a variety of uses, none of which will damage the body like synthetic drug use has been clinically proven to cause. Comparatively, the usage of CBD offers help without subsequent hindrance.
It has been reported that around 100 million American adults endure some degree of chronic pain everyday of their lives. For this reason, the threat of opioid addiction looms overhead, though thanks to CBD, the tides are changing. As we understand the correlation between opioid abuse and mortality, we can further understand just how vital drug-free pain management has become.
CBD is growing in popularity, as it not only aims to relieve pain, but also provide long-term healing in the process.