Opiate-related deaths are on the rise. Sadly, the U.S is in the midst of an opiate epidemic with a staggering 48,000 people dying from overdose per year (According to drugabuse.gov).
Withdrawing from opiate drugs is a mentally and physically painful process. A well-planned approach is needed to rehabilitate properly.
Having something that eases withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings can significantly improve the chance of recovery.
CBD could be the answer.
What are Opiates & How Does Addiction Start?
Opiates are drugs that are derived from opium. Opium naturally comes from the poppy plant but there are many synthetic opioids too, such as fentanyl.
There are two terms often used interchangeably:
- Opiates are drugs directly derived from the poppy plant such as heroin and opium.
- Opioids are a synthetic form of naturally-derived drugs such as morphine and fentanyl.
Opiates and opioids come in many forms. They’re used medically for treating mild to severe pain (opioid painkillers) and recreationally for their calming and euphoric effects.
Medically, opioids in the form of codeine, morphine, and oxycontin, are used to treat a variety of conditions. Although these conditions are a legitimate reason to use the drug, patients are at risk of becoming addicted.
It’s common for addiction to start after someone has been prescribed opioid painkillers. Patients receive the drug and a specified dose from their doctor. Over time the patient can feel like the drugs are losing effectiveness due to tolerance.
As tolerance increases, people tend to consume higher doses of the drug and before they realize it, addiction sets in.
The mind-altering effects of opiates are desirable, with many users saying the first time they use heroin all their worries completely disappear. This escape from reality is what draws people in.
After the first use, some individuals will never stop chasing that feeling of calmness and euphoria. Opiates can take hold extremely quickly, with most addicts not realizing they’re dependent until it’s too late.
What is Opiate Withdrawal?
Prolonged opiate use can lead to a crippling dependency on the drug in question.
When you become dependent on an opioid, you’ll experience withdrawal as the drug is eliminated from the body.
Opioid withdrawal times can vary depending on the specific drug taken, but the symptoms are similar across the board.
For example, heroin withdrawal can start 6 to 12 hours after the last dose was taken. From here, withdrawal symptoms can last 5 to 10 days.
Withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant and can be severe. The pain from withdrawal often draws people back to their opiate of choice just to feel “normal” again. In some cases, rehab is needed so the substance is not accessible to the individual during recovery.
Symptoms of Opiate Withdrawal
- Muscle, joint, & bone pain
- Cramps & headaches
- Extreme anxiety
- Sadness & depression
- Restlessness & inability to sleep
- Hot flashes & chills
- Profuse sweating
- Tempting cravings for the drug
- Nausea, vomiting, & diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Flu-like symptoms (runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing)
How Does CBD Help With Opiate Withdrawal?
Studies by researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine show that cannabis has the potential to improve opiate withdrawal symptoms .
The study asked 125 people that used cannabis during their withdrawal whether the cannabis helped ease or worsen their symptoms.
Out of the 125 asked, 72 percent claimed it eased their symptoms, 6.4 percent said it made their symptoms worse, and 22.4 reported mixed results.
Another study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry tested the effects of CBD on heroin addicts . The study found when cannabidiol is given to patients, their cravings for the drug decreased as well as anxiety levels.
So, what does this mean?
How can CBD help those going through opiate withdrawal?
Although there are limited studies on the topic, there’s evidence that boasts CBD’s potential as a treatment for opiate withdrawal patients.
Numerous other studies have been done on cannabidiol to uncover the cannabinoid’s medical potential. Its anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, and pain-relieving qualities to name a few could help withdrawal sufferers ease their symptoms.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of CBD for opiate withdrawal.
What are the Benefits of CBD for Opiate Withdrawal?
There are many benefits to using CBD and its patient reach is improving as more medical benefits of the cannabinoid are being discovered.
Some of these benefits can help people going through opiate withdrawal. CBD can help mentally, physically, and may even help people stay off the drugs for good.
1. CBD May Reduce Cravings
One of the most desirable qualities of CBD for opiate withdrawal is its apparent craving-reducing qualities. In the study mentioned in the last section, over 70 percent of withdrawal patients claimed CBD controlled their cravings for opiate drugs.
Further scientific studies are needed to find out exactly how and why CBD reduces cravings during opiate withdrawal. We can make some educated assumptions on the matter though.
Cravings during opiate withdrawal are likely alleviated because CBD helps reduce the most common side effects.
When withdrawal symptoms are reduced, it’s far easier to resist the temptation to use the drug again.
2. CBD May Alleviate Anti-Nausea
CBD has anti-nausea properties.
One of the main symptoms of opiate withdrawal is nausea and vomiting. Alleviating these symptoms will make the withdrawal process much easier.
A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that CBD may help nausea because of its interaction with serotonin receptors . They also concluded that low doses of THC prevented vomiting and relieving nausea.
This information points toward full-spectrum CBD oils for treating nausea and vomiting. If you’re going through withdrawal and need relief from these symptoms, we suggest using THC-containing CBD oil.
3. CBD May Reduce Anxiety Levels
CBD is often used by people with stress and anxiety to relieve their symptoms. Anxiety is a common symptom of withdrawal, so using CBD may help relieve this.
Numerous studies have noted CBD’s anti-anxiety properties. A 2011 study found that CBD significantly reduced general and social anxiety levels in people with the disorder .
4. CBD Blocks Pain
CBD is excellent for pain relief. This is an extremely valuable quality for someone suffering from opiate withdrawal.
The same study also concluded that users were not likely to build up a tolerance to the cannabinoid, meaning the same dose can be used over and over again without having to increase.
5. CBD May Help Prevent Relapse
One study suggests that CBD is effective in relapse prevention . The study tested CBD on rats with cocaine and alcohol addictions.
The rats that had been administered CBD during substance recovery were less impulsive when offered their “drug of choice”.
Although the human brain is much more complex than that of a rat, CBD seems to have the potential to prevent relapse after an addiction when consumed daily.
Can You Take CBD Oil While Taking Opiates?
When CBD is consumed alongside most opioids, no reported effects seem to take place. CBD does not affect the function of the opioids and the opioids do not seem to affect the function of the CBD.
However, CBD does interact with the CYP2D6 enzyme in the liver. This enzyme is in charge of metabolizing a range of drugs including codeine and tramadol.
With this in mind, taking CBD could be dangerous if you’re taking prescription opioids or illegal opiates. Without the proper metabolization of both substances, you may experience liver toxicity.
If your liver cannot properly break down the drugs you consume you risk overdose. If unmetabolized opiates are still present in the body and you continue to consume more, the substance will accumulate.
If you’ve been prescribed opioids for your condition and want to use CBD to counteract some of the side effects, it’s extremely important that you consult your doctor first.
If you’re planning on using CBD to help you beat addiction to opiates, it’s okay to start consuming CBD as soon as you stop taking the opiate.
During the withdrawal process, you should continue to take CBD and avoid mixing any other prescription or over-the-counter medication.
CBD for Opiate Withdrawal: The Pros & Cons
There are advantages and disadvantages to any treatment and CBD is no different.
CBD doesn’t work for everyone during withdrawal but it’s certainly worth a try. The pros most definitely outweigh the cons and CBD is easily accessible, less damaging to the body, and cheaper than most other withdrawal treatments.
- CBD can help reduce drug cravings
- CBD may reduce chances of relapse
- CBD alleviates nausea symptoms
- CBD reduces pain
- CBD can ameliorate anxiety symptoms
- CBD may improve sleep onset & quality
- CBD can cause drowsiness
- CBD can be expensive
- CBD may not work for everyone
Final Thoughts: Can CBD Help With Opiate Withdrawal?
Although clinical evidence is lacking, some studies suggest that CBD is an effective way to manage opiate withdrawal symptoms. The cannabinoid may even help you stay off the drugs for good.
Whether you’re taking prescribed opioid painkillers or have an addiction to illegal opiates, withdrawal is difficult and relapse is common. Having an effective plan and talking to a specialist first is an essential step in the rehabilitation process.
If you don’t have the money for professional rehab, it’s possible to get off these substances yourself. Preparation is key and finding something to ease the withdrawal is essential.
We’re not saying CBD is the miracle cure, but with a strong mind, some determination, and some effective planning it may help you recover for good.
References Used In This Article
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- Yasmin L. Hurd, Sharron Spriggs, Julia Alishayev, Gary Winkel, Kristina Gurgov, Chris Kudrich, Anna M. Oprescu, Edwin Salsitz. (2019). Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 176(11): 911–922.
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