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Could CBD reduce opiate dependency for pain relief?

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Is CBD an effective pain treatment?

By alleviating pain, could CBD treatment reduce use of and dependency on opiates as pain therapy? This has been, in one way or another, a guiding question central to the operation of our business since we opened our doors in 2014. By making CBD products accessible to the general public, are we providing a safe and effective alternative to opiate pain treatment?

We asked this of ourselves and of our customers: customer response has always been a resounding ‘yes!’, but, in our information-saturated times, consumers want hard facts to back up wild claims. We've picked a few studies which compellingly tell the tale of CBD as a substance which rivals opiates for pain relief.

CBD & Pain

Scientific studies have indicated that CBD may be a powerful anti-inflammatory. This stance is, of course, echoed by endless customer testimonial. For a summary of the data available on CBD and inflammation, please see this blog article.

Studies have also indicated that CBD may boost immunity. Many conditions resulting in pain have their root cause in an immunity problem. You can learn more about CBD and immunity here. There are many sources of pain that may occur in life, but inflammation and immunity cover the vast majority of origin causes for pain conditions.

If it is true that CBD is both a potent anti-inflammatory as well as immune booster, it would only be logical if CBD indeed helped with pain.

CBD & Oxidative Stress

In 2011, a study was done titled Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress. The authors looked into the data which indicated that CBD may reduce oxidative stress, a precursor to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and neuropathic pain:

“[G]rowing evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system, which includes the CB1 and CB2 G protein-coupled receptors and their endogenous lipid ligands, may be an area that is ripe for therapeutic exploitation. In this context, the related nonpsychotropic cannabinoid cannabidiol, which may interact with the endocannabinoid system, but has actions that are distinct, offers promise as a prototype for anti-inflammatory drug development. This review discusses recent studies suggesting that cannabidiol may have utility in treating a number of human diseases and disorders now known to involve activation of the immune system and associated oxidative stress, as a contributor to their etiology and progression. These include rheumatoid arthritis, types I and II diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, the metabolic syndrome, ischemia-reperfusion injury, depression, and neuropathic pain.”

The authors concluded the following regarding the potential of CBD to combat inflammation and oxidative stress:

“Inflammation and oxidative stress are intimately involved in the genesis of many human diseases. Unraveling that relationship therapeutically has proven challenging, in part because inflammation and oxidative stress “feed off” each other. However, CBD would seem to be a promising starting point for further drug development given its anti-oxidant (although relatively modest) and anti-inflammatory actions on immune cells, such as macrophages and microglia. CBD also has the advantage of not having psychotropic side effects. Studies on models of human diseases support the idea that CBD attenuates inflammation far beyond its antioxidant properties, for example, by targeting inflammation-related intracellular signaling events. The details on how CBD targets inflammatory signaling remain to be defined. The therapeutic utility of CBD is a relatively new area of investigation that portends new discoveries on the interplay between inflammation and oxidative stress, a relationship that underlies tissue and organ damage in many human diseases.”

Notice how the authors had to admit their relative ignorance regarding something as relatively straightforward as the relationship of oxidative stress and inflammation. In science, so little is truly known, and so much is inferred from available evidence. This reality extends to CBD research, as well. That’s why it’s so important to always keep in mind that nothing is set in stone, but that anecdotal testimony and scientific research strongly tell the tale of CBD as a potential treatment for a wide range of conditions.

Transdermal CBD is more effective?

While our CBD tinctures are popular with our customers, the reason that we started off with a topical rather than an internal CBD product was because we knew the power of transdermal application when it came to pain treatments. Topical application of analgesics can be a very powerful way to deliver relief right to the affected area; if, of course, the applied substance is effective.

As a potential anti-inflammatory treatment, CBD applied topically (if applied in a formula capable of penetrating skin, such as our one-of-a-kind water-based transdermal absorption formula) accesses the affected area more rapidly with a higher-fidelity effect.

That’s not to say that orally applied CBD is a waste of time. If held under the tongue, a CBD tincture such as Liberty Lixir can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The blow dealt by the liver once the tincture is swallowed is thereby lessened. The data seems to indicate that orally ingested CBD may have benefits above and beyond those of transdermal CBD.

At least one study touts the benefits of CBD when applied topically. This study from 2016 titled Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis explored the potential of topical administration of CBD versus the more common method of oral administration:

“Cannabidiol (CBD) attenuates inflammation and pain without side-effects, but CBD is hydrophobic and has poor oral bioavailability. Topical drug application avoids gastrointestinal administration, first pass metabolism, providing more constant plasma levels.”

If applied topically, could CBD help with a condition such as arthritis and its associated chronic pain?

“Transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane in a dose-dependent manner… [t]hese data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.”

These recent data from 2016 seem to indicate that CBD truly does have the power to take the pain away.

CBD vs THC for Pain

Which is better for pain: CBD or THC? The answer seems to be both; the studies indicate that the most powerful analgesic effect is achieved when these two cannabinoids are combined.

But what about the psychoactive properties of THC? Not everyone in pain wants to get high; many want to get away from the intoxication associated with prescription painkillers. That’s not to mention the current status of cannabis law at home and abroad.

Thankfully, CBD is not psychoactive, at least in the traditional sense. The research shows that unlike THC, CBD does not direcltly interact with the CB1 or CB2 receptors, the two main types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Instead, CBD has a more subtle effect that researchers are still trying to pin down.

What do we know about how CBD & THC work together and separately for pain? A keystone study from 2012 titled Cannabidiol in Humans—The Quest for Therapeutic Targets takes a look at these two cannabinoids and their prospects for pain treatment:

“Results revealed that CBD/∆9-THC and ∆9-THC-alone were equally beneficial for pain and all three treatments (including CBD-alone, but less so) improved sleep quality, relative to placebo. Of the 28 patients that obtained benefit, 14 found CBD/∆9-THC and ∆9-THC equally satisfactory, 11 preferred CBD/∆9-THC, two preferred ∆9-THC-alone, and one found ∆9-THC-alone and CBD-alone equally satisfactory [76].”

The patients in this trial appear to have preferred CBD + THC to CBD alone.

“As a whole, these data indicate that CBD and its analogues may be beneficial for pain resulting from inflammation, however, human studies on this topic are lacking.”

Since 2012, more studies have been done, yet the status of our concrete knowledge regarding CBD is still lamentable.

CBD & Pain | The Bottom Line

Since our inception in 2014, our products, and sometimes we ourselves have travelled throughout the world. We know some of the people we’ve impacted like old friends. Others appear unexpectedly to tell us that Liberty Lotion has changed their lives. Some of them have become employees.

These people tell us that Liberty Lotion has helped them with pain when nothing else has. They tell us that Liberty Lixir makes their pain level manageable when even drugs like Fentanyl and Morphine don’t. We take their calls and return their messages every day. Sometime’s we’re the only one’s who know their stories.

It’s for them that we look into the research and undertake to explain why, from a scientific perspective, CBD has had this transformative effect on their lives. They spread the word to their audience just as our message grows an audience as well. A convergence is happening of CBD-experiencers old and new from across the world and we invite you to join the conversation. Please comment or contact us with your views and we’ll join in with our perspective.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085542/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26517407
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763649/

Further reading

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17157290
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2044.2004.03674.x/full

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