In an interesting turn of events, the legal cannabis industry has arisen almost in conjunction with the opioid epidemic in the United States. Even more fascinating is the idea that cannabinoids can eventually replace addictive prescription drugs, meaning CBD can be used as a natural pain reliever.  

The opioid epidemic has had widespread and tragic consequences across the nation. Sadly, many of those who become addicted to painkillers do so after being prescribed the meds from their physicians. 

Yet, we are beginning to learn that there may be alternative and less intrusive methods for treating chronic pain. One of the most promising new remedies for chronic pain is that of cannabidiol or CBD. 

The Status of CBD in the United States 

It cannot be denied that we have a great deal to learn about medical cannabis and its potential uses. Nonetheless, as medical research into cannabinoid continues to expand, we are uncovering the almost limitless potential for cannabis and hemp.  

As we have seen with many facets of the new legal U.S. hemp industry, the federal regulation of CBD is moving very slowly. As such, the FDA has yet to officially legitimize CBD as a pain reliever. Unfortunately, many chronic pain sufferers are stuck waiting for federal approval of CBD, while being forced to use to addictive painkillers. 

To date, there is only a single legal cannabinoid drug on the market, that of epidiolex. According to the popular website Medical News Today, epidiolex contains CBD and “is used to treat seizures caused by two forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.”

While epidiolex is only approved to treat these specific forms of epilepsy, there is hope that the FDA will also approve the drug as a pain reliever. 

Current speculations aside, CBD makes for a very strong argument as a legitimate alternative to addictive painkillers. Most notably, the Harvard Medical School tells us, CBD is both non-psychoactive and non-addictive. 

The Legal Opioid Epidemic 

Tragically, the legal opioid epidemic in the United States has touched countless lives. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse website states: “In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.”

Sadly, this dramatic uptick in opioid addiction resulted largely from doctors prescribing these harmful drugs to chronic pain patients. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that the people could have likely found relief from healthier treatments like cannabinoids. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse website continues with more alarming facts about the opioid epidemic in the United States: 

  • 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2017
  • In 2017, 1.7 million people suffered from substance abuse with opioids 
  • 20%-30% of those prescribed opioids for chronic pain abuse the drugs
  • 8%-12% of prescription opioid patients become addicted

These alarming facts illuminate the urgency for developing non-addictive pain medicines such as those made from CBD. 

CBD as a Pain Reliever

As we come to learn more about cannabinoids, we are beginning to understand better the potential applications for CBD as a pain reliever. 

To again look to the Harvard Medical School website, they report studies on animals in “which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.” Needless to say, this scholarly research into the pain-relieving properties of CBD shows great promise for mainstream acceptance of the cannabinoid. 

While we continue to wait for official government approval of CBD-based pain medications, we must depend on patient reports in furthering our understanding of the compound.  

The Arthritis Foundation has posted some interesting findings concerning CBD as a pain reliever. In 2019, they conducted a survey of 2,600 people that led to the following conclusions: 

CBD as a pain reliever
  • Most CBD users report relief from chronic pain 
  • A majority of CBD users find it very beneficial for arthritis pain 
  • Many people reported that CBD is healthier than opioids 

The Arthritis Foundation has provided some very helpful information on the use of CBD in treating chronic pain – especially as an alternative to opioids. At Nature’s Therapy, we believe that government research will eventually match these case studies. 

Case Study: Diabetic Neuropathy

Research into CBD as a pain reliever opens the door to potentially treating a variety of ailments. Of these, the treatment of diabetic neuropathy shows great promise. 

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Depending on the affected nerves, diabetic neuropathy symptoms can range from pain and numbness in your legs and feet to problems with your digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart. Some people have mild symptoms. But for others, diabetic neuropathy can be quite painful and disabling.” 

Interestingly, research into medical cannabis has identified the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as intimately entwined with our neurological networks. While still in the realm of theory, perhaps CBD acts as a pain reliever by restoring the imbalances in the ECS that arise with diabetic neuropathy. 

Summary

While the future of CBD is still largely unknown, there is great promise in CBD as a potential alternative to addictive prescription drugs. Yet, this progress largely hinges on the FDA and their research into CBD. 

Since the legalization of hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill, the United States Government has moved at a crawl in the process of creating regulations for CBD products. This terribly slow process has posed serious challenges for chronic pain patients in need of pharmaceutical quality CBD products.

As of now, we can only hope that the FDA will catch up with what many chronic pain patients already know to be true: CBD is a non-addictive, healthy alternative to prescription pain killers.