While there are many problems we have created in the world, from pollution to obesity, one of the scariest epidemics facing Americans today is opioid addiction. For decades, prescriptions and non-prescription opioids have been used by many people dealing with despondency and discomfort. When used, opioids release endorphins, which create a euphoric feeling that many people crave when trying to overcome hard times or serious injuries. Because of this, opioid users can become addicted to the good feelings and crave the drug, even when they no longer need them. This addiction has become so serious the Department of Health and Human Services declared it a public health crisis in 2018.
From 1999 to 2017, the CDC reported that more than 700,000 people have died from opioid overdose, which includes more than 70,000 deaths in 2017 alone. With the combination of pharmaceutical companies assuring patients they would not become addicted to their opioid pain relievers in the 1990s, to high relapse rates due to intense withdrawal symptoms, this opioid epidemic claims the lives of more than 140 Americans every day.
Veterans and Opioid Addiction
As the number of those affected by opioid addiction continues to increase, there is a group particularly vulnerable to the potential for addiction – veterans. Because of serious injuries and PTSD, a 2011 study found that veterans are twice as likely to die due to opioids than non-veterans. At a meeting with the members of the Cannabis Caucus and the House of Veterans’ Affairs last year in D.C., retired Marine, Steve Danyluk, who works with wounded vets, explained, “I witnessed what I believe is a policy of over-medicating wounded service men and women with opiates.” He called for a more cost-effective, naturally occurring alternative that has no psychoactive side effects – CBD.
CBD to Fight Opioid Epidemic
States that have legalized medical marijuana have seen 25 percent fewer opioid-related deaths than states that have not legalized it, as reported in a 2014 study. Now, more and more studies are showing that cannabidiol (CBD) may actually help reduce symptoms of addiction without the psychoactive effects. CBD interacts with the Endocannabinoid System in our bodies, which plays a crucial role in helping regulate an array of physiological and cognitive processes. A 2009 study published by the Journal of Neuroscience stated that CBD “may be clinically useful in attenuating the rewarding effects of opioids.”
Public approval of the legalization of cannabis continues to increase, and more people like these veterans and patients are finding hope in these alternatives. However, the use of CBD will not change the outcome of this epidemic overnight. As a society, we are prone to addiction – opioids, food and even technology. We need to help increase awareness and education of these alternatives, as well as the importance of our health and wellness, in order to prevent and defeat this epidemic.