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CBD, The Solution to the Opioid Crisis

Opioid crisis overdose, is CBD the solution?
Written by Dr. Leah Zachar

What is the leading cause of death in people under age 50 in the United States? Do we have an Opioid Crisis? And what makes CBD the perfect solution?

Drug overdose has overtaken heart disease, homicides, car accidents, and cancer as the number one cause of death in those under fifty years of age. Seventy-two thousand people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2017 according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the NIH (National Institute of Health).   The drug category responsible for the grand majority of these deaths was opioids – specifically Vicodin, Oxycontin, heroin, and most of all Fentanyl.  This fact has led many to call today’s situation an opioid crisis.

The pharmaceutical management of pain has become a multi-million-dollar industry.  According to Becker’s Hospital Review, as of May 2017, of the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, the top three were Vicodin, Norco, and Xodol – all opioids, all initially prescribed in order to control pain.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has 50-100 times more potency than morphine is the primary reason that opioid deaths have skyrocketed.

Why are opioids so addictive?

Opioids stimulate the release of dopamine.  Dopamine is a pleasure hormone.  Dopamine release can create an emotional need for the person to crave more opioids – not for pain relief, but rather for the brain-rewarding effect. Continued use of opioids drives the cells that release dopamine to become less responsive and as a result, higher doses of opioids are required to get the same effect, this defines addiction.

The downward spiral then continues as the dosage progressively increases in order to derive the same response, or if fentanyl is added.  Plus, when centrally acting depressants such as alcohol or benzodiazepines are taken together with an opioid, death from overdose can occur.

So, how does one break the cycle of addiction and pain-control?

CBD, The Solution to the Opioid Crisis

CBD, The Solution to the Opioid Crisis

The answer is CBD.  The delivery systems recommended are CBD vapes (such as for CBD e-liquids and CBD flowers) or CBD oils.

CBD is a cannabinoid that works predominantly inside the cell.  When it binds to adenosine receptors, it reduces the intense anxiety that the opioid user experiences when trying to cut down the dose.  These withdrawal symptoms drive the user to crave the opioid, not for pain control or for the psychological effect, but simply to put a stop to the intensely uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.

CBD can successfully address the opioid addiction, but it must be taken with a healthcare provider’s oversight, eventually decreasing the dose of the opioid only after CBD is being taken regularly.

As always, and most importantly, CBD is safe.  There has not been even one case of death from cannabidiol since time immemorial.

Take home points:

  • Opioids are used to control pain but are highly addictive.
  • Opioids overdose, aka Opioid Crisis, is the number one cause of death for people under age 50.
  • CBD treats the addiction, thus preventing the overdose, and as a result, saves lives.


Am J Public Health. 2018 Oct 108(10):1394-1400.

Surgeon General’s Advisory on Naloxone and Opioid Overdose.

Mayo Clin Proc. 2018 Mar;93(3):269-72.

 J Subst Abuse Treat. 2015 Nov;58:1-5.

Prev Med. 2018 Aug; 113:68-73.

Office of the Surgeon General. 2016.

The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine. (6th ed.) (in press) Wolters Kluwer, 2018.

“Ten most popular prescription drugs for 2017.”  Becker’s Hospital Review  July 24, 2017

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About the author

Dr. Leah Zachar

Dr. Leah Zachar, M.D. is a physician who worked for nearly thirty years in Internal Medicine.
She currently is a scientific adviser to CBD Testers. Dr. Zachar believes that there is much that medical cannabis, and cannabidiol in particular can offer to traditional medicine.