Health & Wellness

Where the Opioid Epidemic Stands

And how do recent studies around CBD impact opioid addiction treatment?

By Shauna Willetts

It’s estimated that around 130 individuals die every day from opioid or opioid-related overdoses in the United States. In the last three decades, the opioid crisis in the United States has continued to rise—in 2017 at an estimated 1.7 million people suffering from substance abuse disorders and over 70,000 overdose deaths.

How did this happen?

Dating back to the 1980s, pharmaceutical companies worked to assure the medical community that prescribing opioids for pain relief wasn’t likely to result in addiction. Following that, healthcare providers began to prescribe opioids at larger rates, which gave the public easy access to them. This resulted in widespread misuse of opioids without transparent information about the addictive and detrimental qualities of these drugs. From the period of 1995–2002, emergency room visits involving prescription opioids increased a large 153% due to misuse.

What are opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin and fentanyl, as well as highly addictive prescription pain relievers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

How is the United States taking action? 

In 2016, The 21st Century Cures Act passed allocating $1 billion in opioid crisis grants and funds for treatment and prevention programs. Following that, in 2017, the first $485 million was distributed across all 50 states and US territories.

In 2018, the United States passed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act that aims to address the nationwide opioid crisis. The law includes increased access to treatment and follow-up care, specifically for women and children and those recovering from a substance use disorder.

Despite these laws being passed, overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States and with a lack of an amalgamated federal response to a crisis that has continued to take lives for the past 3 decades, many are skeptical of ever finding a solution. But recent studies on CBD and heroin use disorder might be offering some hope.

CBD impacting treatment

In a study on cannabidiol and heroin use disorder published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, participants took place in a double-blind study and given either a placebo of a 400 or 800mg dose of CBD. Later, participants were shown cues to induce heroin cravings. Results showed that those who took place in the 3-day CBD administration period not only had a reduction in cravings but also a decrease in anxiety that lasted up to 7 days.

In conjunction with that, the National Institutes of Health supports a growing study of cannabis use as a substitute for prescription opiates for treatment of chronic pain, which could hopefully lower the onset of opioid use in the United States and assist in addiction recovery and treatment programs in the future.

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