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It’s no surprise to anyone reading the news that there is a public health crisis surrounding opiate use in the United States. Addiction rates and overdoses are at an all-time high, and more people than ever are struggling to beat their dependence on opioid pain medications.

But some scientists and researchers are now speculating about one particular compound’s potential to help reduce dependence on opiates (in more ways than one): CBD.

There may be great potential for CBD oil for pain – but before you shop CBD products, let’s see what the science says:

CBD is non-addictive

A major factor to consider when taking anything related to chronic pain is its potential for dependence – i.e., can you get addicted to it?

Opiates and opioid painkillers have long been known for their addictiveness – according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 21%-29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain end up misusing them. Between 8%-12% will develop an opioid use disorder, or addiction. And a whopping 80% of heroin users first misused prescription opioids.

But CBD, according to the World Health Organization, “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” They also stated that “there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

So the case is being made for CBD as a non-addictive option for those who currently use opioid-based medications.

But, more importantly – can it actually help address chronic pain?

CBD might help with chronic pain

Research is ongoing with relation to CBD oils and tinctures, along with other products, for chronic pain, but here’s what we know so far:

  • A study published by Li H, Kong W, Chambers CR et al. in Cell Immunol “confirmed that CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.” (Li H, Kong W, Chambers CR, et al. The non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) attenuates pro-inflammatory mediators, T cell infiltration, and thermal sensitivity following spinal cord injury in mice. Cell Immunol. 2018;329:1–9.)
  • In animal models, CBD applied on the skin can help lower pain and inflammation, according to a study published in the European Journal of Pain (Hammell DC, Zhang LP, Ma F, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Eur J Pain. 2016;20:936–948.).
  • The oral CBD spray used in studies have found it to have an NNT (number needed to treat) of 5.0, which is comparable to many routine agents used in treating neuropathic pain, including SSRIs (NNT 5.0) and gabapentin (NNT 6.4). This is a metric used to compare the pain-relief effectiveness of different substances. (Micó JA, Ardid D, Berrocoso E, Eschalier A. Antidepressants and painTrends in Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2006;27:348-354.)

So we can see that there is massive potential for CBD oil or CBD pills to help with chronic pain, and what’s more – it’s non-addictive. That will make it easier for those who experience pain to taper off of CBD should they ever need or want to, when compared to reducing usage of opioids.

CBD may reduce cravings for opiates

So we know CBD is non-addictive, and appears to have big potential to help with both temporary and chronic pain.

But that’s not all – there also appears to be evidence that CBD can help reduce cravings for opioids themselves. So it may serve a dual purpose: both replacing opioids for pain relief, and helping to taper off opioids.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, “craving was significantly reduced in subjects allocated to 400 mg or 800 mg of an oral CBD solution given once daily for three consecutive days” with respect to opioid cravings. Subjects were also found to have reduced cravings for a full seven days following the treatment.

All of this information combined gives us a pretty good indication of where research is pointing. We’re keeping an ear to the ground for any news about CBD, pain relief, and opioid addiction – and we’ll always keep you up to date.