Opioid abuse and overdose has spiked in the last five years. Opioid overdoses increased by 65% from 2012 to 2014. Recent figures show that the average number of fatal overdoses per year in the United States is around 33,000, but in 2016 a government report showed 64,000 deaths from drug overdose overall and more than 50% of those deaths were from opiates. A dramatic increase in fatal overdoses has caused many to find an alternative to opiates for pain relief and alternative treatment methods.

Opiate vs. Opioid: What Are They & What’s The Difference?

An opiate refers to the chemical compound taken from opium (opium poppy) while an opioid refers to the synthetic drugs derived from opiate compounds – for example, heroin is an opioid. However, the term “opioid” has been used to describe all opiate and opioid compounds in recent culture.

Opiate Compounds:
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Thebaine
  • Papaverine
  • Narcotine
  • Narceine


Opioid Dependence

An opioid dependence is created when the body becomes accustomed to the presence of opioid induced dopamine that it becomes desensitized to the effects of the drug. More drugs are needed to achieve the same effect which increases the risk of an overdose.

How We Become Opioid Dependent
  1. Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract (gi tract).
  2. Body releases dopamine (responsible for pain relief)
  3. Long-term production or large quantities of dopamine produced in a short-term, makes the body accustomed to certain dopamine levels requiring individuals to increase their opioid dose to maintain these levels.

Opioids prevent the body from interpreting pain – you still have pain, but the drug disrupts the channel of communication that signal your brain to recognize the pain. The problem is that opioids take away your body’s ability to manage pain with nociceptors, the sensory receptor for painful stimuli.

Current Treatment: Opioid Withdrawal

The current acceptable treatment for opioid dependence to wean patients off of opiates while minimizing withdrawal in opiate abusing patients is Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT). The problem with this method is that Methadone is an opioid. This is equivalent to moving an alcoholic from liquor to beer. It doesn’t treat the addiction. Using another opioid to treat opioid addiction leaves a high risk of abuse in methadone treatment. The risk is mitigated through a required daily clinic visit to obtain the methadone. However, this increases the chance of relapse as patients lose motivation to travel to a clinic or low income patients with barriers to transportation abandon treatment all together.

Cannabis and Opioid Withdrawal: Why Natural Makes Sense

Cannabis has become a common course for treating the symptoms of withdrawal because of its quality as a natural analgesic, mood booster and anti-inflammatory agent. Cannabis is also a safe option because there is a zero risk of fatality. Why? It takes 40,000 times the normal amount of cannabinoids to be considered a fatal dose – making this risk “impossible”

Symptom Relief with Cannabis:
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms/shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Cramping
  • Goosebumps/ body chills
  • Intense sweating
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Severe aches and pains


Pain Management & Cannabis

The most common prescription for medical cannabis is for pain management. Many doctors and nurses are prescribing cannabis to help wean their patients off of opioids.

Cannabinoids prevent opiate tolerance build up that causes opioid dependence. This helps doctors wean patients by allowing them to take fewer opioids for pain. This eventually turns into a treatment that replaces opioids with cannabis or uses a combination of opioids and cannabis to manage pain. Always consult with a naturopathic doctor or holistic nurse to help navigate the proper treatment path for you.

Microdosing & CBD: Products That Eliminate Fear of Psychoactivity

Microdosing is beneficial in pain management treatment because it maintains a minimum dose of cannabis in your system that yields the maximum relief. This eliminates the “high” feeling that can induce anxiety in many patients. Likewise, CBD is the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that has pain relieving properties perfect for novice cannabis users or for patients that do not desire the “high” associated with high doses of THC.

Medicinal cannabis products like edibles or tinctures also make microdosing easier to manage as most of these products are pre-dosed or come with syringes to measure out precise dosage. Edible and tinctures produce longer lasting effects of the cannabis because they are metabolized differently than an inhaled cannabis product. Because both are ingested either sublingually or in the gi tract, these methods of consumption are inherently more bioavailable than smoking cannabis.

Microdosing Products Preferred by NDs
  • Myriam’s Hope
  • The CBD formula tinctures are easy to measure out and are made with high quality cannabis oil. Different formulas provide patients with high levels of CBD per ml dose. Formula A packs a 25 mg/ml punch while Formula B and C provide users with 50 mg/ml and 100 mg/ml respectively.

  • Veda Chews
  • The pre-dosed cannabis infused high CBD “medibles” are easy and convenient. The CBD formulas (gold 1:1 and silver 3:1) offer a non-psychoactive to minimally psychoactive effect with powerful and effective relief of pain, nausea, and inflammation.

Cannabis should be considered as a viable and effective way to deal with opioid addiction and withdrawal. Work with a trusted naturopathic doctor or homeopathic nurse who is trained in clinical cannabinoid medicine and/or chronic pain management with cannabis.

Microdosing & CBD Products to Try

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