CBD, cannabidiol, is rapidly becoming the most highly publicized natural medicine of the 21st century. Why? Because it’s highly effective for reducing pain, inflammation, and anxiety without the psychoactive effect or any unpleasant side-effects. And it allows chronic pain sufferers to minimize or even eliminate their use of prescription opioids, anti-inflammatories, anti-anxiety drugs, and sleep aids.
Chronic pain, defined as pain lasting for more than 3 months, afflicts more than 100 million Americans, nearly one-third of our population. The conventional medical treatment for chronic pain has been prescription opioids and powerful anti-inflammatories, regardless of whether the condition is chronic low back or neck pain; osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis; neuropathy; musculoskeletal pain from an injury, surgery, or both; Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis; fibromyalgia; or even severe menstrual cramps. The opioids are addicting, cause a multitude of uncomfortable side-effects, and are killing more than 150 people per day, resulting in over 42,000 deaths from opioid overdose in 2016. This led to President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a “national public health emergency” in October 2017.
A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that in states with legal medical marijuana (MMJ) there were 25% fewer opioid-related deaths. There is also evidence that doctors in MMJ states prescribe far fewer opioids, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Based on this data, it is estimated that a nationwide MMJ program would save taxpayers about $1.6 billion on Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions annually. Private insurance was not included in this estimate, which would have certainly increased cost savings even more.
From the perspective of safety, efficacy, and cost-savings, it makes perfect sense for cannabis to become the medicine of choice for treating chronic pain.
Due to its legality, accessibility, and especially its lack of the psychoactive effect, CBD has become the most popular cannabis product for chronic pain sufferers. In a study published in March 2018, CBD was shown to block the opioid reward effect and relieve pain. This conclusion supports the use of CBD for treating opioid addiction as well as for pain relief. CBD reduces the withdrawal effects for opioids, nicotine, and benzos, making it much easier to get off of all of these addictive drugs.
In another study published the same month, it was found that opioids are no more effective for relieving chronic pain than acetaminophen (Tylenol). So not only can opioids be deadly, they’re not especially effective when it comes to treating chronic pain.
I recently saw a 71-year old patient with a history of having had 4 back surgeries during the past decade. She reported that she was still in constant pain and had stopped the opioids prescribed by her orthopedic surgeon because they weren’t helping to reduce the pain and rendered her unable to function well at work. She didn’t like feeling even slightly high while at work so she avoided the CBD:THC/1:1 products (most effective cannabis products for pain relief) during the day, and was currently only vaporizing a strong Indica strain before bed to relieve pain and help her sleep. She felt hopeless and depressed after having undergone 4 unsuccessful back surgeries and was still experiencing constant pain. She said, “Nothing works for me. I’m always in pain. I’ll probably have to live like this for the rest of my life.” I recommended CBD, and told her to start with 25mg. (a moderate dose), and if that didn’t work to increase to 50mg. The next day she was thrilled to report that after one dose of 50mg. the pain was gone!
CBD can be used alone (with less than 0.3% THC) or as a complement to the strongest cannabis pain-relieving products, such as CBD:THC/1:1. CBD reduces the psychoactive effect while increasing pain relief.