The opioid epidemic: finding alternative solutions through natural products

The opioid epidemic: finding alternative solutions through natural products

“How did we get here?”

That seems to be the automatic first response from anyone coming to realization about the depths of this country’s opioid epidemic. This summer has been eye-opening for people who don’t live in areas typically riddled with overdose cases. But the mounting death tolls sweeping large cities and small communities as a result of crippling abuse of heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers have made it impossible for anyone, even those geographically removed from the crisis, to look away.

Drug use in and of itself is not shocking; but for too long we’ve all found comfort in the false narrative that drug abuse is largely in outlying problem – something that is, of course, serious, but does not affect large numbers of individuals. Now, however, drug overdoses are spiking at an alarming rate, so much so that the government has declared the Opioid Epidemic a national crisis.

It’s easy to spend hours asking “why?” or “how?” or, even, pointing fingers. But it’s time to start talking about real, tangible solutions. This crisis has been brewing for years, decades even, especially since the late 1970’s when more doctors started prescribing prescription painkillers to patients. Since then, prescription pain medication use has skyrocketed, and become a common crutch that far too many people lean on, and then, can’t stop leaning on. Despite the fact that most people, and all doctors, understand the severe consequences of prescription painkillers, these pills have become a part of our cultural psyche, and are steadfast components of the medical landscape. The effect of these opioids is so powerful that tolerance builds up within 30 days of use.  So taking a prescription for just one month following a surgery or in the midst of disease treatment  causes a swift, spiral effect that is hard for most people to pull themselves away from.

Where do we go from here?

It seems like an insurmountable problem, because there’s no way of prescribing addictive medication to patients in need and guaranteeing that they won’t become dependent. But if we reframe our approach to healing and look for solutions outside of the opioid family, we stand the chance of ensuring that this epidemic never repeats itself.

For years, holistic practitioners have wizened to the healing properties of Cannabidiol, a natural hemp extract most commonly associated with another member of the hemp family, marijuana. This extract contains medicinal properties that have been proven to alleviate the same symptoms that prescription opioids are often used to solve, including: joint pain, arthritis pain, migraines, and general muscle soreness.

Unlike opioids, Cannabinoids are non-addictive, nor do they share any of the mental or physical consequences of prescription pain medications. The biggest problem with CBD isn’t a problem stemming from the extract itself, but rather, a PR problem. Although many states have decriminalized marijuana, and some have even legalized it, still associate hemp and CBD as the not-too-distant relatives of the recreational stoner drug of choice.

Luckily for patients across the globe, new products and technologies are emerging that are bringing CBD to the forefront of the medicinal discourse. Pain Relief Meds, a division of Premier Biomedical Inc., is leading the charge in bringing CBD-based healing products to the mainstream and, subsequently, decreasing patient dependency on harmful and addictive medications.

These medications interact with naturally occurring Cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system, connective tissues, and organs to slow down the release of neurotransmitter that incite pain and seizure activity within the body. Additionally, a second set of Cannabinoid receptors, present within the immune system decreases cell response to lower inflammation. Patients who use products like Pain Relief Med’s Topical Hemp Oil Extract Patches experience immediate relief of their physical ailments, all without risking long-term health by ingesting addictive opioids.

Until discovering CBD treatment, patients suffering chronic pain and illness have been stuck between a rock and a hard place: take opioid medication and risk addiction, or suffer crippling pain on a daily basis. Anyone, if given the choice between pain or no pain, will choose drugs, ad it is exactly this lack of resources and education that has spurred on a national health crisis.

If we want to collectively heal, it’s time we start re-framing the narrative around CBD and hemp solutions. Companies spearheading these products face political walls and DEA-barriers to entry. But as the DEA recently retracted its ruling on hemp-derived products as Schedule 1 drugs, and confirmed their legality, there’s newfound hope that these treatments can save and heal a generation.

Read next: How an out-of-body VR experience changed my views on dying