After starting CBD, over half used less opioid medication, a few used less anxiety medication and sleep medication,
and a majority experienced an improvement in their quality of life

Opioids are widely prescribed for chronic pain management.  They are chemicals that communicate with opioid receptors located on nerve cells located within in the body and brain to reduce feelings of pain. Opioids come in the form of prescription pain relievers (such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and codeine), synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl and tramadol) and heroin.

The danger of using opioids is that they are highly addictive, despite pharmaceutical companies assuring the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers back in the late 1990s.  Back then, and not knowing the addiction risk, healthcare providers began to prescribe opioids at huge rates.

As years passed, the number of Americans using opioid medications substantially grew and their addiction to it become blatantly clear.

Statistics revealed that an alarming number of Americans abused both prescription and non-prescription opioids as a result of their addiction to them.  In 2016, opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths, with 40% of opioid overdose deaths involving a prescription opioid.  This data was shocking.

Thus, in 2017 the government declared a public health emergency and announced a strategy to combat the opioid crisis.  This strategy included an opioid funding investment of $900 million to support state and local governments, civil society groups, train first responders, and more.  Unfortunately, this strategy has yet to make a significant impact. Based on the last two years of statistics,

  • In 2019, 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids, with 1.6 million people developing an opioid use disorder, and 70,630 people having died from a drug overdose
  • In 2020, 48,006 people overdosing on opioids with as many as 80% of all overdose deaths involving opioids

A desperate need for an opioid alternative

In researching for safer alternatives to opioids, CBD has been proposed as one such opioid alternative due to its similar effectiveness for pain relief and because it has a better safety profile. Unlike opioids, experts report that CBD is not addictive and has no withdrawals symptoms when stopped.

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Hemp-derived CBD as a potential opioid alternative

To explore CBD as an alternative to opioid use, researchers conduced a study that solicited chronic pain patients from a private pain management center.

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of using CBD-rich hemp extract on the patients’ opioid use and their quality of life.

Patients were enrolled in the study if they were between 30 and 65 years old, suffered moderate to severe chronic pain for at least 3 years, and had been using opioids for at least 1 year.

Out of 131 qualifying patients,

  • 97 patients completed the 8-week study.
  • 32% of patients were males and 68% of patients were females.
  • The average age of patients was 56.1 years with ages ranging from 39 to 70 years.
  • All 97 patients were diagnosed with chronic pain and had been on a stable dose of opioids for at least 2 years.
  • 96.9% out of the 97 patients completed the 8-week study using CBD.

Type of CBD product and amount of CBD taken

Patients were offered a free 60 count bottle of hemp-derived CBD-rich oil filled soft gels, 15 mg per soft gel. 94 patients chose to use the CBD soft gels, and 3 declined.

Among the 94,

  • 91 used 2 soft gels daily, consuming approximately 30 mg of CBD per day
  • 1 patient took 4 soft gels daily, consuming approximately 60 mg of CBD per day, and
  • 2 patients used 1 soft gel daily, consuming approximately 15 mg of CBD per day

Impact of using CBD on opioid use and quality of life

The impact of using CBD on the patients’ opioid use and quality of life was significant.  Specifically,

  • 53.2% of the patients that used the CBD soft gels reduced their opioid medications within 8 weeks of starting CBD
  • 6 patients reduced or eliminated their anxiety medications after starting CBD, and
  • 4 patients reduced or eliminated their sleep medication after starting CBD

Notably, none of the 3 patients who declined to use CBD reduced their opioid intake at any time during the 8-week study.

In addition, 94% of the patients that used the CBD soft gels also reported an improvement in their quality of life.


Based on the outcomes of this study, the study’s authors concluded that “CBD could significantly reduce opioid use and improve chronic pain and sleep quality among patients who are currently using opioids for pain management.  This is consistent with emerging literature on the topic, which has concluded that CBD is an effective analgesic, and one that helps reduce barriers to opioid reduction, such as physiological withdrawal symptoms.”


Clinical Focus: Pain management, Evaluation of the effects of CBD hemp extract on opioid use and quality of life indicators in chronic pain patients: a prospective cohort study, Alex Capano, Richard Weaver & Elisa Burkman, November 12, 2019
What is the U.S. Opioid Epidemic, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Opioid Use Disorder, American Psychiatric Association
Opioid Overdose Crisis, National Institute on Drug Abuse
Opioid Crisis, Health Resources & Services Administration

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