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Patients, Doctors, & Pharmacies Benefiting from Opioid Alternatives

Establishing Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain

In the United States, an estimated 50 million people suffer from chronic pain. which is defined as “pain on most days or every day in the past 6 months.” Nearly 20 million (about 7.5%) experienced high-impact chronic pain, defined as “limiting life or work activities on most days or every day in the past 6 months.”


Each year, millions of prescriptions are written by doctors for pain relief. Far too many of them are for dangerous opiates. According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids. An analysis released in February 2018 by Altarum, a nonprofit health research and consulting institute, estimated the cost of the country’s opioid crisis to have exceeded $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017, and is projected to cost an additional $500 billion by 2020.

As a result of physicians overprescribing, the opiate crisis is spiraling out of control in the United States. The effects of the opioid crisis are cumulative and costly for our society—an estimated $504 billion a year in 2015 alone—placing burdens on families, workplaces, the health care system, states, and communities.


In 2016, more than 11 million Americans abused prescription opioids, nearly 1 million used heroin, and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder from prescription opioids or heroin. Although millions of Americans are addicted to opioids, only 1 in 10 actually gets treatment. Data from 2017 showed that the number of overdoses and deaths continued to increase at an alarming rate. Around 175 Americans die each day due to opioid overdose or abuse.  In 2017,  opioid abuse was declared a Public Health Emergency by the Surgeon General’s office.


While the consequences of continued opioid prescribing and use are taking its toll on lives, the search for safe, effective and affordable substitutes goes on. The crackdown on pill mills, over-prescribers and abusers of opioids has already begun. As the stigma of opioid use grows, many people who need true relief from pain and discomfort are having to turn to alternative treatments for pain.


Alternatives to Using Opioids for Pain


While government agencies and pharmaceutical companies are struggling to come to acceptable substitutes for highly addictive opioids, new research studies into cannabis and its components, such as CBDs, or cannabinoids, show promise. As the number of states with some form of legal cannabis or medical marijuana grow, studies show that opioid prescriptions, abuse and deaths fall.


While cannabis use dates back to the dawn of recorded history, stigma and its Federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug continue to be obstacles for many people who could be helped by cannabis or some its compounds. Each of the 50 states have their own laws regarding drug classifications and controlled substances. This is why some states have legalized the use of marijuana (commonly referred to as cannabis), medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana products and established laws governing growing, manufacturing, dispensaries, taxes, and other regulations.


CBD oil and CBD products manufactured from cannabis and hemp plants have changed the lives of people across the country. CBD oil and CBD products are supposed to have therapeutic properties that users claim helps them with a variety of issues. Scientific research on CBD and CBD oil is still in very early stages, but preliminary studies are promising. Results show that CBD may help people with medical and therapeutic issues such as seizures, neurological diseases, mood disorders such as PTSD, as well as pain, cancer, inflammation and more.


CBD is a New Frontier for Pain Relief


CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of about 400 compounds found in both cannabis (marijuana) and hemp plants. Cannabis and hemp are closely related. The cannabinoid CBD extracted from hemp has some structural similarities to THC found in cannabis. The difference between the two is marked by their psychoactive properties (cannabis) or lack of them (hemp).

CBD products developed for chronic pain relief

The lack of psychoactive properties in CBD make it a viable candidate for use as an alternative therapy for people withdrawing from opioid dependence. Alternative treatments help ease nausea, anxiety, diarrhea, and pain caused by withdrawal.

Doctors routinely prescribe holistic treatments like meditation, acupuncture, massage, and yoga to help restore balance to the body and mind, so individuals feel better as they go through withdrawal. With CBD and cannabis being shown to reduce the symptoms experienced by people with PTSD, it’s possible that we will see it become an approved alternative treatment for opioid dependence and withdrawal.


CBD-based medications, whether topical or taken internally, show real promise in pain relief, which can help lower the rates of opioid dependency and abuse.


Candidates for Opioid Replacement


In most countries, opioids are reserved for acute hospitalization and trauma, such as burns, surgery, childbirth and end-of-life care, including patients with cancer and terminal illnesses. Opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone continue to be routinely overprescribed for pain management in the United States, even in relatively minor surgical procedures, putting people at risk for developing a potentially deadly addiction. Americans are by far the biggest users and abusers of opioids – around 80 percent of the world’s supply is used by 5 percent of the world’s population. Add in Canada and western Europe, and that number grows to 95 percent. That’s a shocking statistic.


Opioid abuse and opioid dependence continues to be a problem for many, and doctors and healthcare professionals are under pressure to find suitable alternatives to treat their patients with chronic pain.  The possible health benefits of CBD and CBD oil show promise. The FDA has even approved a CBD-based medicine for use in treating certain types of epilepsy, so it’s likely we’ll see new uses for the compound and more CBD-based drugs coming onto the market as new discoveries are made.


CBD oils containing high levels of the compound have been used to treat anxiety, depression and to help ease stress, all without the psychoactive effects and stigma of traditional cannabis or addictive qualities of opioids. As research and studies continue to find new applications for CBD, savvy health professionals, independent pharmaceutical companies and other medical entities can help patients with chronic pain or other conditions find real relief without the risk of turning to opioids first.