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CBD is being used to treat fibromyalgia pain instead of Opioids

Fibromyalgia is one of many chronic pain disorders that has shown to be difficult to treat.

According to a new Michigan Medicine study, a large number of people with fibromyalgia are finding an effective replacement in CBD-containing products as a result of the opioid epidemic's effects.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the cannabis plant's second most prevalent cannabinoid, and it's been used for anything from mood stabilization to pain relief without the intoxicating effects of THC, the most frequent cannabinoid. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive component in marijuana that makes people feel high.

The legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in states across the country, as well as the removal of hemp-derived CBD from Schedule 1 status (reserved for drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse) at the federal level, have aided the cannabis industry's growth.

According to previous studies, some users substitute medicinal cannabis (typically with high THC concentrations) for opioids and other pain drugs, claiming that cannabis gives superior pain relief and has fewer negative effects. However, there is far less information about CBD use.

"CBD is less dangerous than THC since it is non-intoxicating and has less misuse potential," said Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. "If people can get the same relief without the negative side effects of THC, CBD could be a good harm reduction technique."

Boehnke and his colleagues polled fibromyalgia patients regarding their use of CBD for chronic pain relief.

"Fibromyalgia is difficult to treat, and it frequently necessitates a combination of drugs with considerable side effects and marginal benefits," Boehnke explained. "In addition, many alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, are not covered by health insurance."

The researchers focused on 878 persons with fibromyalgia who stated they used CBD for this study in order to learn more about how they used CBD products.

More than 70% of persons with fibromyalgia who used CBD did so instead of opioids or other pain drugs, according to the University of Michigan researchers. Many of the participants said they reduced or stopped using opioids and other pain medications as a result of the study.

"I wasn't expecting that amount of substitution," Boehnke said, noting that the rate is comparable to that documented in medical cannabis literature. People who stated they used CBD products with THC had a higher chance of substituting and reported more symptom relief.

However, the discovery that products containing solely CBD offered pain relief and could be used instead of pain drugs is encouraging and warrants further investigation, according to Boehnke.

Much of the widespread use of CBD occurs without professional oversight and in the absence of appropriate clinical trials, according to the researchers. "Despite the absence of proof, many are utilizing CBD as a medicine substitute, claiming that it is less toxic and more effective," he said.

More controlled research into how CBD may give these benefits, as well as if these benefits are attributable to the placebo effect, is needed, according to Boehnke.

Opening up channels of communication about CBD use for chronic pain in the clinic is critical, according to Boehnke, for drug safety as well as "increasing the therapeutic relationship and improving patient care."

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