Opioid Use and Addiction: Are Cannabinoids the Answer?

Signs of Addiction

Opioid use and addiction to substances are a major world health problem. Aside from the fact that some people may be genetically predisposed to some kinds of addictions, the drugs themselves may have addictive properties due to how they alter body chemistry.

However, signs of opioid use and addiction to substances can be physical or behavioral. The physical side effects of staying off a certain substance may cause a lot of discomfort, which ultimately makes the patient feel it is best to continue using. Evidence also exists that addiction is linked to physical changes in the brain structure, perhaps caused by the drug itself.

People may also have issues with addiction due to an underlying medical condition. For instance, too much drinking may be a way of self-medicating for conditions like pain, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety. Therefore, treating an addiction without treating the underlying issue may prove unsuccessful.

Cannabinoids such as CBD and THC may be the answer to combating opioid addiction.

Is CBD Really the Solution?

So, are cannabinoids a viable solution for those suffering from substance addiction, specifically opioid addiction? Here's what the research says...

Researchers are of the opinion that cannabinoids have a strong therapeutic effect on disorders of substance abuse, which could aid in the staggering opioid epidemic in the United States.

Preclinical studies have proven that cannabinoids reduce the rewarding properties of opioid drugs and withdrawal symptoms, and also inhibit heroin-seeking behavior.

Studies have also shown that cannabinoids have a major effect on relieving chronic pain caused by inflammation. Both drugs act on different regions of the brain. The non-lethal nature of cannabinoids minimizes concerns about overdoses.

The safety profile of CBD is retained even when combined with a potent opioid agonist. Its therapeutic value has been demonstrated in epileptic children.

According to the Pharmacy Times, “a previous retrospective, cross-sectional survey of patients with chronic pain underscored an association between cannabis use and low opioid use. Overall, cannabis use was associated with a 64% reduction in opioid use in the patients who completed the survey. Patients with prior signs of opioid use and addiction also reported better quality of life and fewer medication adverse effects.”

Also, in an article published in Science Daily, research conducted using preclinical rats showed that using a non-addictive or non-psychoactive ingredient of the Cannabis sativa plant may drastically minimize the risk of a relapse among recovering alcohol and drug addicts.

CBD As a Non-Addictive Treatment

Staying free from drugs is a constant battle for abstinent addicts. Residing in a drug-related setting complicates issues and makes the struggle more difficult. Such addicts experience anxiety at a higher level; the same goes for stress. A lot of these addicts can’t put their urges in check, especially when offered an addictive substance like cocaine or alcohol.

This May 2019 Forbes article highlights research that reveals CBD could reduce cravings and anxiety for recovering heroin abusers.

A 2009 study has indicated that cannabis, whether psychoactive or not, may be a much better substitute for illicit drugs. A 2012 study has equally found out that THC treatment minimized self-administration of heroin in rhesus monkeys.

Products that have a close semblance to heroin are often sold as analgesics, and this study indicates that THC-heroin combination did not enhance the addictive potential of the other drug. This study supports the fact that cannabis may be used alongside opioids to combat pain and minimize the dose of addictive medications.

CBD to Enhance Addiction Therapy

In many cases, major life stressors and traumas may cause an addiction or may be a major contributor to an addiction. In such cases, behavioral therapy and counseling may be helpful, while cannabis can enhance the efficacy of the therapy.

A human trial involving 48 participants has shown that cannabidiol (CBD) may minimize learned fear. The cannabinoid interacts with regions of the brain responsible for the formation of memory, though how this is done is not fully understood. The trial discovered that treatment with CBD after a shocking or fearful event helped to forestall fear associated with a particular color.

Research has also shown that CBD has antipsychotic and anti-anxiety properties, which could enhance its benefits in therapy sessions. While there is a need for further research, cannabinoid studies have shown that they have calming effects and bring a relaxed state of mind to patients during treatment.


It seems silly—and unconscionable really—to continue to demonize marijuana and all cannabis-related products when they could potentially help millions with their addictions. Industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and non-addictive. Of course, more research should be done to more effectively understand and use the benefits of cannabinoids.

The Nature’s Breakthrough educational resource is just one of the ways The Hemp Haus practices its sincere commitment to and passion for educating people about CBD and helping them find the right, high-quality product based on their needs.

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Hurd YL. Cannabidiol: Swinging the marijuana pendulum from ‘weed’ to medication to treat the opioid epidemic. Trends in Neurosciences. 2017; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2016.

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