Hemp-derived CBD can help chronic pain patients cut down their usage of addictive opioid medications, according to a new study published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine.
There is already a solid body of evidence suggesting that medical cannabis can help reduce opioid use, but the present study explores the topic from a unique angle. "Outside of survey studies, this has been the largest study on the use of CBD to reduce the use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain," said Dr. Alex Capano, lead author of the study, in a statement.
"It's also the first study on CBD and opioid reduction to identify key data points, such as hemp extract doses, delivery method, and specific cannabinoid content,” Dr. Capano continued. “Most participants used a relatively low dose of 30mg of CBD per day, whereas other studies on CBD have tested very large doses, 10x or 20x that amount. Lower doses of CBD mean reduced risk of side effects and improved outcomes."
Researchers recruited 97 patients who were using opioid medications to treat symptoms of chronic pain. Each of these patients “had been using opioids for over a year to manage chronic pain,” Dr. Capano explained. “Some patients had been using opioids for decades." All participants were given a bottle of 60 hemp-derived cannabis soft gels and asked to take two a day.
Each soft gel contained 15.7 mg CBD, 0.5 mg THC, 0.3 mg cannabidivarin, 0.9 mg cannabidiolic acid, 0.8 mg cannabichrome, and under 1 percent of a botanical terpene blend. Researchers report that 91 subjects took 2 gel caps per day, consuming just over 30mg of CBD, while 3 subjects took a lower dose, and 3 refused to use the medicine at all. While taking the pills, subjects answered questionnaires concerning their opioid usage, pain intensity, quality of sleep, and other factors.
Eight weeks later, 53 percent of the subjects were able to reduce their opioid intake, and 94 percent reported quality of life improvements – especially in sleep quality and reduction of pain intensity. The authors also note that 10 patients were also able to reduce or eliminate their usage of anxiety and sleep medications. This finding also supports prior research suggesting that medical cannabis can help patients cut down their use of benzodiazepines.
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“The results of this study suggest that using CBD-rich hemp extract oil may help reduce opioid use and improve quality of life, specifically in regards to pain and sleep, among chronic pain patients,” researchers concluded. “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.”
The study recommends that “future research should expand on these findings and include larger, randomized, placebo-controlled trials. These results also signal a need for improved clinical education on the topic, particularly in the pain management specialty, and potential adjustments to drug-test policies within clinics and across employers.”