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Can CBD Be Used To Treat Drug Addiction and Withdrawal? The Facts

Deaths from the treatment and use of prescription opioids have quadrupled in the United States since 1999. Current estimates of the associated medical health costs of this are over $72...

Deaths from the treatment and use of prescription opioids have quadrupled in the United States since 1999. Current estimates of the associated medical health costs of this are over $72 billion every year in just the US. The Chief of Hematology-Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, Dr Donald Abrams, is one of the many medical professionals highlighting that anything that can weaken this epidemic, which kills 80 Americans every day, is well worth consideration.

Abrams states, “if we could use cannabis, which is less addictive and harmful than opioids, to increase the effectiveness of pain treatment, I think it can make a difference in this epidemic of opioid abuse.” The doctor has assessed the effects of cannabis on pain for well over a decade and continues with, “We are hampered by the fact that it is still difficult to get funding for studies on cannabis as a therapeutic,” [1] notably due to its Federal classification as a Schedule 1 drug.

Cannabis Enhances Pain Relief

Dr Dustin Sulak, a licenced osteopathic physician who practices alongside fifteen other providers in a practice located in Maine, treats a very wide variety of patients’ symptoms with medical marijuana and CBD oil. “Cannabis enhances the pain relief of opioids, and if they work together, (the effect) is more powerful,” he says. [2] Dr Sulak and his colleagues treat roughly 20,000 people across the area of Maine and Massachusetts. Around 70% of their patients utilize medical marijuna and CBD for chronic painful conditions. Other patients use it for conditions such as nausea from chemotherapy drugs or cancer. They recently surveyed well over 1000 patients and discovered that over half said they used cannabis in combination with opioids to treat their pain. A vast majority of them stated that they either dropped opioid use completely, or greatly reduced their dosage over time. “You don’t see this anywhere else,” says Sulak. “Instead you see people coming back and asking for more and more opioids.” [1] These results show how powerful cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD oil) is at acting upon the endocannabinoid system to improve painful experience and mental health conditions such as anxiety. In saying that, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can in some patients, cause side effects that can over the long-term deteriorate mental health, so it's important that the correct dosage, strain, and ratio of CBD to THC is utilized in any cannabis product. Conversely, one can stick with hemp derived products, which in most countries contains less than 0.3% THC.

Can CBD Be Used to Treat Drug Addiction?

Medical marijuana, CBD, and other cannabis-based medicines have the potential to be a vital weapon in the war against the opioid epidemic, not to mention drug addiction, in general. Not to mention the overuse, drug abuse, and overdose of opioids in the United States. Cannabis medicine has been successfully used as a substitute for opioid-based pharmaceutical treatments for pain relief, allowing people to lower their dosages and prevent addiction, and also bring relief to various drug withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis and narcotic painkillers are known as co-agonists, which means that each of them magnifies the effect of the other. This information and use can help to allow people to take lower doses with comparable effectiveness. In one recent study involving over 300 participants using high doses of opioids to control pain, researchers found opioid intake could be reduced by a whopping 60% in just three weeks of CBD administration while still managing their pain at the same level. After two months, many patients were able to get off the opioid medicine altogether. 

can cbd be used to treat drug addiction and withdrawal

Substance Abuse Addiction Treatment

CBD has been found as a successful treatment when easing symptoms of opiate withdrawal during the addiction recovery process. CBD oil can also help to decrease the physical craving for the opiates, which is a big deal for anyone recovering from opiate addiction and can help prevent relapse. In the past, it was often said that cannabis is a gateway drug, however in reality, it is actually a gateway in the other direction; out of addiction. In fact, cannabis is a drug that is used to aid in the healing of people addicted to hard drugs. As reported in 2015, the sales of pharmaceutical opioid drugs had dropped by 5% in states that have legalized cannabis.

Drug Addiction: A New Definition

A renowned speaker, and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics including addiction, stress and childhood development. Dr Maté states that, "addiction is manifested in any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up. In brief: craving, relief, pleasure, suffering, impaired control. Note that this definition is not restricted to drugs but could encompass almost any human behavior, from sex to eating to shopping to gambling to extreme sports to TV to compulsive internet use: the list is endless."

“I’m not going to ask you what you were addicted to,” I often say to people, “nor when, nor for how long. Only, whatever your addictive focus, what did it offer you? What did you like about it? What, in the short term, did it give you that you craved or liked so much?” And universally, the answers are: “It helped me escape emotional pain… helped me deal with stress… gave me peace of mind… a sense of connection with others… a sense of control.”

You can learn more about Dr Gabor Maté, his books, and work, through this link to an article titled, Opioids and Universal Experience of Addiction.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania published a study in 2014 examining the rates of opiate-related overdoses over an eleven year period between 1999 and 2010. They discovered that on average, the states that legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes showed a 25% lower opioid overdose mortality rate after the laws were implemented. Authors of the study stated that, “people already taking opioids for pain may supplement with medical marijuana and be able to lower their painkiller dose, thus lowering their risk of overdose.” [2] Can CBD be used to treat drug addiction? From the statistics and studies completed thus far, it certainly seems like it.

This correlation between legalizing cannabis use through the passing of a medical marijuana bill and a decrease in opioid overdose deaths has continued to strengthen over time. During the first year after a state’s law is implemented, deaths decrease by nearly 20% and continue to steadily drop. Five years after the law change, the rate extends to 34%. It is quite incredible the amount of lives saved with these changes.

Research published in The Journal of Pain from 2016 showed that medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use in patients with chronic pain. Additionally, there was also a decrease in the amount of side effects from medications with an average of 45% improvements in quality of life (QOL) measures, which is of great significance, benefits greater than other classes of medications and with fewer side effects. [3] 

Additionally, researchers from the University of Georgia discovered that in the seventeen states with medical marijuana laws in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers dropped rapidly compared to states that did not have medical marijuana laws. The drops were significant. In medical marijuana states, it was found that the average doctor prescribed a whopping 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers each year. On top of that, average doctors prescribed fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses, and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. [4] 

These numbers are likely causing concern among pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma has been a lead player in the opposition to marijuana reform. It has funded research by anti-cannabis academics [5] and smuggled millions of dollars to groups that are opposed to marijuana legalization (such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America). [6] [7] Pharmaceutical companies have also lobbied federal agencies directly to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws.

cbd and alcohol addiction

The most prominent players in the anti-marijuana legalization movement are by far, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol and beer companies, private prison corporations, and police unions, all of whom help fund lobby groups that challenge marijuana law reform. Corrections Corporation America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies in the US, has spent almost $1 million per year on lobbying efforts. The company even stated in a report that “changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances... could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.” [8] In other words, less people rotting in prisons means less money. Yes, there are companies out there that are created for the sole purpose of making money from people being imprisoned. You can find the link to the full report in the references section at the bottom of this article.

According to a report in The Nation magazine, among the largest donors to organizations fighting marijuana liberalization are Purdue Pharma, makers of the painkiller OxyContin; Abbott Laboratories, which produces the opioid Vicodin; and Janssen Pharmaceutical, a J&J subsidiary that manufactures the painkiller Nucynta. [7]

“There is big money in marijuana prohibition,” notes the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit research group based in Washington, DC, that investigated this link to anti-legalization lobbying efforts. [9] The organizations that received money from these companies to lobby Congress to maintain marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug, in spite of the fact that more than 22,000 people die every year in the US from overdoses of pharmaceutical drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2] Three out of every four pharmaceutical overdose deaths involve prescription painkillers; that’s more than heroin and cocaine combined.

It seems that drug companies are doing their best to downplay the medical benefits of cannabis in order to maintain or increase the consumption and sale of their drugs; alcohol manufacturers certainly don’t want competition for their customers from legal marijuana (which provides a less expensive “buzz” than alcohol, and lasts longer); and private prisons need to fill their beds with convicted drug offenders (posession or sale). Marijuana advocates have some large and very well-funded enemies to content with. The future of legalized cannabis now rests with the efforts of the people to push for changes in state and federal laws, and their country of residence.

Can CBD be used to treat drug addiction? See our other article on Hemp for Addiction and Withdrawal

“No genuine change in society ever occurs without the mass public getting behind a cause. The good guys in government are counting on enough of us common people waking up and demanding more rights and greater freedoms.” ~James Morcan

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