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CBD and Opioids
The popular cannabis compound may be able to help some people wean off addictive pain medications.
“CBD has promising effects on pain, which could make it an effective substitute for opioids,” says Shereef Elnahal, M.D., the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Health and a strong supporter of medical marijuana. He also points to studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that in states where people could legally use marijuana, the number of filled opioid prescriptions dropped significantly, and there were lower rates of opioid overdose and death, compared with states without legal cannabis. Though several factors could contribute to those results, researchers find the link between cannabis laws and declining opioid use intriguing.
The most common and conventional painkillers that are prescribed throughout the world are opioids. They can act on four types of endogenous receptors in our body called mu (μ), delta (∂) and kappa (k). In general, opioids are a safe and effective way to relieve pain if used alone in short periods of time.
Because opiates produce euphoria and pain relief, they have a high addictive potential that can make users dependent on them. There are many negative side effects in the face of long-term exposure to opioids, such as nausea and vomiting, constipation and liver damage. In extreme cases, long-term opioid abuse can even lead to death
Is there any alternative to opioids?
Due to side effects and the fact that there is inadequate relief from current approaches for people harboring a number of debilitating diseases or chronic symptoms, people have been looking for alternative medicines that can be taken for long periods of time.
In recent years, researchers have discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) could be a valid and effective alternative to the use of opiates. CBD is a non-psychoactive component and the second most important cannabinoid found in the marijuana plant. Once CBD is ingested, it interacts with your endocannabinoid system, modulating appetite, mood, memory and pain resistance.
CBD is a pleiotropic drug which means that it has many effects in many different molecular pathways. If the CBD is ingested at a high enough concentration, it activates the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor (hydroxytryptamine), which produces an antidepressant effect. This receptor participates in many biological and neurological processes, such as anxiety, addiction, appetite, pain perception…
What can be done?
Cannabidiol has become such a popular alternative that pharmaceutical companies have created drugs and pills that are chemically similar to CBD, but it is still not available to everyone and, on occasion, its price is high.
Using CBD and opioids at the same time can create a synergistic effect that can allow a reduction (in some cases even a replacement) of the prescribed opioid dose. In this sense, although more research is needed to evaluate the long-term side effects of taking CBD, what is known for sure is that the medicinal effect of this cannabinoid is promising.
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