Time To Explore Natural Alternatives To Opioids?

Millions of people around the world suffer from chronic pain, and automatically reach for opioids for relief. But while opioids can be effective when well controlled, they can come with unwanted side effects. Worse still, they can lead to addiction and dependency, as in the case of the US, which is currently wrestling with a national “opioid crisis”.

According to the US National Institute of Health, more than 130 people in the country die every day after overdosing on opioids, including prescription painkillers like fentanyl. And in 2018, the number of total apparent opioid-related deaths across the border in Canada was 4,460, bringing the death rate to 12 per 100,000 for that year [1].

The Opioid Crisis Is Spreading

Worryingly, the opioid crisis doesn’t appear to be confined to the US alone. UK government statistics show that from 2017 to 2018, people in treatment for opiate dependence made up a huge 53% of the total numbers in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction [2]. Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco and Justice at Public Health England, cautioned that “while the scale and nature of opioid prescribing does not reflect the so-called crisis in North America, the NHS needs to take action now to protect patients.” [3]

Promising Early Research Into Natural Alternatives

So if opioids don’t offer a viable long-term solution to tackling chronic pain, what are the options? Some sufferers are exploring the pain-relief potential of natural alternatives like CBD. This cannabis compound works in a different way to opioids by actively reducing inflammation, rather than simply blocking pain receptors and leaving the root cause untouched.

According to a US report called “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research”, researchers found that CBD is an effective treatment for chronic pain. And another study, published in the “Journal of Experimental Medicine” also supports these results, indicating that CBD is effective in tackling pain and inflammation [4].

While it’s still early days for research into the potential therapeutic effects of CBD, initial results and personal accounts from sufferers both look promising.


[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.

[2] The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research”, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017.

[3] Medicinal Cannabis Network, 2019.

[4] Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2012.