Opioid painkillers are among the most commonly-prescribed drugs in America today, with millions of people taking them both for the acute pain following an injury and more chronic, long-term pain. The problem with this is, there isn’t evidence to definitively prove that opioids are effective against chronic pain, but there is abundant clinical evidence showing that long-term use of opioids can result in addiction and dependence, resulting in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if discontinued suddenly.
Opioids were responsible for for over 72,000 overdose deaths in 2017 alone, and even taking them as directed can cause overdose if combined with other opioids or with alcohol. They also produce significant impairment, which can keep you from your daily life.
By contrast, CBD can help relieve both acute and chronic pain, as well as reduce the inflammation causing it, without side effects or risk of overdose, addiction, or dependence. It’s easy to see why CBD might be an attractive option for dealing with pain, especially chronic pain: it’s natural and works with your body’s endocannabinoid system to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation, as well as dissolving anxiety and combating seizures and muscle spasms.
If you’ve decided to give CBD a try, you’ll need to know how to go about replacing your current medication regimen. We do not recommend quitting any pharmaceutical medication cold-turkey, as doing so can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, there is evidence that CBD can help counteract withdrawal symptoms, so you can use it to help you safely ease off your prescription dosage. Here, we’ll discuss how to go about how to safely go off opioids completely and replace them with a CBD regimen to treat your pain.
A Note On Tapering Medications
If you’re trying to come off of a medication, you may find yourself short on resources and guidance. This is an unfortunate side effect of a for-profit medical system: since helping people discontinue medications isn’t profitable, very few resources are put into studying safe and effective tapering schedules. Many physicians know precious little about how to create a plan for a patient to taper, and the information they have may not apply to your current situation or prescription. You’ll need to be an active participant in your care in order to successfully discontinue using opioids.
We’re certainly not saying your doctor doesn’t know their stuff—they’re part of your medical team and you need to communicate with them about your health, including your plan to discontinue your use of opioids. That said, you should be prepared to advocate for yourself and your health—some patients find that the withdrawal symptoms they report are minimized or ignored altogether, and your doctor may suggest a tapering schedule that is too aggressive for you. It is important that you communicate clearly and effectively with your doctor; if that is not possible, consider seeking another opinion. Medical help is immensely valuable, but don’t devalue your knowledge of your own body.
Incorporating CBD Into Your Health Regimen
Before you start tapering off your medication, you’ll need to find the dose of CBD that works for you. Many people find a dose of 10-20 mg per day effective, but if you need more, take more! You won’t overdose or grow dependent and you won’t feel impaired, so you’re free to take as much as you need for relief from your symptoms. We recommend using a systemic product, such as a CBD tincture or softgel, for daily dosing—save the vaping or dabbing for acute pain. If you’re unsure how much to take, start with 10-15 mg and wait 45 minutes. If you feel no change, take 10 mg more and wait another 30 minutes, repeating as necessary until you find the dose that works for you.
We recommend taking CBD about two hours before you take your regular medications during this time, that way you’ll be able to distinguish the effects of the CBD from your current prescription. Once you’ve established the dose that’s right for you, you’re ready to move on to phase two: actually tapering off your opioid prescription.
Tapering Off Opioids: Be Patient!
Opioids are notorious for causing addiction and physical dependence, and weaning yourself off of them can take some time. That’s okay! It may be frustrating to continue to take them for longer than you’d probably like, but anyone who’s experienced withdrawal can tell you that going slow will save you a lot of grief.
It’s important to work with your doctor during this time: they can suggest a tapering schedule to start off with, as well as give you ideas if the original plan is too aggressive. Keep in mind you’ll have to hang out at the same dose for a little while after lowering it each time—don’t rush. We know you want to be off this medication as quickly as possible, but you also want to be gentle to your system and take this process as slow as you need to.
During this time, you’ll keep taking your CBD at the dose you found that works for you. Consistency is key with CBD, so make sure you’re consuming it every day. You can also choose to supplement your long-acting CBD (tinctures or softgels) with something that takes effect more quickly, such as vaping or dabbing. If you need more localized relief, consider using a topical CBD salve to soothe aching joints and muscles and reduce inflammation from both within and without.
A Quick Note About Drug Testing
Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception. There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, and the ones available paint a rather murky picture: avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely. A single study (as yet unconfirmed) suggests that even isolate-based products may not be completely risk-free under certain circumstances.
If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you’ll need to consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. To learn more about the science of CBD and drug testing, check out our article for a more thorough discussion of how to minimize your risk of a false positive.
While it may take you some time to wean yourself off of opioids and fully replace them with CBD, it is absolutely possible and completely worth the effort. If you’re looking for more information on how CBD can help you and how to taper off opioids safely, check out our case studies or CBD ebook for detailed clinical information to help you on your journey.