Posts tagged with "opioids"

CBD: An Alternative to Prescription Drugs?

In the modern world, our first approach to treating an illness is to find the most suitable pharmaceutical drug, which we typically get either over-the-counter or on prescription. However, while these medicines are normally effective, they can unlock a whole new box of issues, including dependency and side effects.

Becoming reliant on medication can be mentally unsettling, and nasty side effects like nausea and dizziness typically require further treatment, leaving patients on a cocktail of pharmaceutical-grade drugs before they know it.

In the case of opioid painkillers, dependency may even be life-threatening, with the risk of overdose frighteningly high. In 2016, abuse of prescription opioid painkillers and recreational opiates accounted for more than 40,000 US lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This cycle of illness, drugs, side effects and more drugs is wearing thin with many, and combined with the new wave of medical cannabis science, a clear divide has formed between those who favor prescription drugs, and those who’d rather take natural, plant-based medicines.

From a historical perspective, medicinal cannabis use makes perfect sense, with the herb being used for millennia across the world, but particularly in Africa and Asia.

Technological advancements have greatly developed our knowledge of cannabis, and scientists now know which compounds are responsible for various effects. For example, the psychoactive “high” mostly comes from a therapeutic cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, numerous other cannabinoids have medicinal properties, sans the hallucinogenic effects.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most studied and seemingly most useful non-intoxicating cannabinoid, and the market for CBD products has exploded in the 2010s, thanks in part to the relaxation of laws surrounding non-psychoactive hemp.

CBD over opioids
Opioid-based painkillers like Tramadol are now regularly prescribed for chronic pain, with stronger synthetic drugs such as fentanyl available on prescription for the most extreme discomfort. These drugs are designed to interact with opioid receptors in the opioid system. The pain relief from these drugs is substantial, however sustained use leads to increased tolerance, stronger doses and addiction.

However, CBD may be helpful for chronic patients, and also those who have ended up dependent on opioids, as the cannabinoid seems to exhibit anti-addiction properties by interfering with pleasure-reward mechanisms.

By elevating concentrations of anandamide in the body, CBD is promoting a neurotransmitter that works to ease both physical and mental pain. How CBD tackles addiction is less clear, but some evidence indicates that CBD is active in the opioid system.

Not all pain is the same – for example, some chronic pain is persistent and always at a similar intensity, whereas the worst effects of inflammatory and neuropathic pain tend to come from flare-ups.

For internal neuropathic pain, CBD vape oil and e-liquid treatment is ideal, because the relief comes very quickly. Meanwhile, lingering pain is economically and perhaps more efficiently managed by orally-consumed CBD products (e.g. capsules, edibles, coffee).

Experimenting with gels, creams and balms infused with cannabis or CBD is a novel method of coping with localized pain. These ensure that the cannabinoid receptors in the affected area are directly activated.

CBD: the new anti-inflammatory drug?
Immune system response is still not well that understood, and this has made it difficult to control. Researchers have struggled to find ways of influencing inflammation, but studies into the endocannabinoid system have found that immune system response is accessible via cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). Endocannabinoids look to signal a stoppage in inflammation, after a wound has fully healed or an infection is neutralized.

This discovery may be crucial, as the current leading class of anti-inflammatories (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) are known to cause concerning side effects, including stomach ulcers.

The best CBD product for inflammation depends, unsurprisingly on the type of inflammation. Internal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which could be exacerbated by endocannabinoid deficiency, respond well to both CBD vape juice and CBD edibles, or even tincture oils.

For osteoarthritis, a form of inflammation which affects the joints, CBD creams and other topicals are likely to produce better results.

CBD’s promise as an antidepressant
Cannabinoid research is providing genuine hope for antidepressant researchers, after decades of stagnation in medication development. The current situation with depression medicine is far from ideal, with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) slow to show benefits – for up to 40 percent of patients, these drugs may not even work at all. And then there are the side effects to contend with, which range from drowsiness to impotence. Depersonalization and derealization have also been anecdotally reported with SSRIs.

However, a glut of promising studies on CBD and the brain have found that the ECS could be important in correcting off-balance brain chemistry. The CB1 receptor modulates many variables, mood being one, and the bond between anandamide and this receptor is important for good mental wellbeing. Factors outside of the ECS also affect mood, but the potency of anandamide as an antidepressant makes the link with the CB1 receptor an essential one.

Some of the most exciting research on cannabinoids has been on their neuroprotective and neurogenesis properties. Studies on the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex and cannabinoid treatments, which are associated with depression, have demonstrated that CBD is able to repair these regions of the brain, by restoring neuronal circuitry and helping to form new brain cells.

A 2018 study on rats carried out in Brazil showed that CBD was effective from the first treatment and for up to seven days after the last dose at blocking synaptic proteins which damage neuronal circuitry in the prefrontal cortex. Meanwhile, CBD-initiated neurogenesis in the hippocampus helps to regrow the brains of adult rats with depression. These results have not yet been replicated in humans, but rats are used for such studies because their brains are similar to humans. General memories and our autobiographical memory are stored in the hippocampus.

The only CBD products that aren’t suitable for managing depression are topicals, as the cannabinoids remain in the skin, and do not reach the brain.

Facing Addiction

By James W. Hood

I had a horrible feeling that October Friday. I’d been in that situation many times before, but this time felt different.

That Wednesday, Austin left voicemails that sounded confused — from a friend’s phone, because Austin had lost his.

On Thursday, Austin sent texts from that same phone. Something wasn’t right. I called the friend to say I was concerned and to have Austin call me. Several hours later, the friend called to say he went to Austin’s apartment, but no one was home.

A few hours later I received a blocked call but couldn’t answer in time. Three minutes later a call came with a New Orleans area code. It was the coroner saying my beautiful boy was found slumped over his kitchen table, dead from an opioid overdose.

Austin’s journey was over. Mine was just beginning.

Like every child, Austin was a wonderful person — just a kid trying to grow up in a world that throws endless challenges at us. But at age 14, Austin started drinking. We were concerned and sought help. By 15, we found pipes and marijuana in his room. We sought more help. By 16, Austin was using opioids.

The next three years were a blur of therapists, interventions, wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools, and ER visits. At 19, Austin was doing great. He went to college with new-found determination and optimism. Until those 48 hours that I’ll never be able to understand or reconstruct.

Until the phone call came that would bring any parent to his or her knees. Until he lost his battle and I lost my son.

Someone said losing a child is the greatest pain we will ever face.

They were right.

Looking back, I wondered why it was so difficult to help Austin. Why did he have to go to 18 different people or places for help? Why was there no roadmap? Why did I feel we were lurking in shadows the entire time? Wasn’t there anyone who’d figured out what needs to be done?
I came to understand our family’s journey was far from unique. But even in Westport, CT, society wants to pretend addiction is not the horrific problem it is.

Addiction is devastating our country and stealing our youth. With 21 million people currently suffering and 23 million more in long-term recovery, addiction to alcohol and other drugs impacts one in three households. Addiction affects as many people as diabetes; one-and-a-half times as many as all cancers combined.

Someone, usually a young adult, dies from alcohol or other drugs every four minutes — like a jumbo jet falling from the sky every day with no survivors. Addiction and accidental overdose are now the leading killer of people under 50 years of age, and addiction costs our country $1 trillion a year.

Where is the outrage?

Our country has done little to combat the scourge of addiction, and so it continues to get worse, striking an ever-younger audience every year. Why? Because the stigma, shame, and hopelessness surrounding addiction have kept this issue in the shadows.

As a result — astonishingly — there has never been a well-funded equivalent of the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association to battle the addiction crisis.

This is why I left my career and, with others whose lives have also been forever changed by this crisis, created Facing Addiction (now Facing Addiction with NCADD).

We’ve crafted a comprehensive strategy to turn the tide against addiction in America.

To do that, we’re building a national movement — as exists with every other major health issue — to bring a unified voice and sustainable source of funding to this effort.
On October 4, 2015, Facing Addiction made history on the National Mall, when tens of thousands gathered to end the silence surrounding addiction. This was the first time major musicians, politicians, actors, and advocates all joined to create a united voice, supporting Facing Addiction’s pledge to help solve the most urgent health crisis of our time. It was the AIDS-quilt moment for addiction in America.

Since then, Facing Addiction with NCADD has become the leading voice in the effort to end addiction in our country, and has accomplished many important things. Still, because of the stigma, shame, and misunderstanding surrounding addiction, many ask if we can truly reverse this problem.
The answer is, unconditionally, yes.

First, we must educate people that addiction is an illness, not a moral failing. It happens to good people who no more want to become addicted than others want to get cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.

Addiction is not inherently fatal. It is treatable, and recovery is real. But people must understand the risks. One in every seven Americans will experience a substance use disorder.

Second, we must make accurate information readily accessible, in a trusted place, so people who need help know where to turn. Facing Addiction with NCADD, with Transforming Youth Recovery, created the Addiction Resource Hub that lists some 40,000 assets, to help people with prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery, and advocacy. This is the most comprehensive addiction resource ever assembled, and is already helping countless people.

Third, we must remove impediments that have been holding back progress for decades. Prevention programs that don’t work. Pediatricians untrained in addiction. Shady, under-regulated addiction treatment centers. And our wrong-minded response to addiction as a crime, instead of an illness.
America has faced other health crises throughout history and, each time, found ways to dramatically lessen their impact.

Thirty-five years ago, people thought HIV/AIDS, another highly stigmatized illness, was insurmountable. But since the AIDS quilt moment in 1983, great strides have been made to reduce its devastation — with $3 billion raised toward that end.

But we must act…now. More than 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of “the fierce urgency of now” when discussing a very different crisis in America. We must focus today’s “fierce urgency of now” on the addiction crisis in America, before we lose an entire generation of our youth.

JAMES W. HOOD
Co-CEO of Facing Addiction with NCADD

Jim has had a distinguished career, with an emphasis on helping companies identify and implement strategies for significant growth. He has more than three decades of experience in general management, business strategy, marketing, finance, consulting, private investing and as an entrepreneur.

Since the death of his son, Austin, from drug-related causes in October 2012, Jim has devoted all his time helping to forge a national organization, Facing Addiction, to serve as “the American Cancer Society of the addiction space.”

Facing Addiction launched with a history-making event on the National Mall on October 4, 2015. In January 2018 Facing Addiction merged with NCADD. The resulting organization, Facing Addiction with NCADD, is now recognized as the leading voice in the effort to end addiction in our country. Jim serves as Co-CEO of Facing Addiction with NCADD.

During his years in advertising, Jim managed some of Young & Rubicam’s largest accounts, headed the agency’s strategy review board, served as Director of Global Business Development, and was CEO of the joint venture between Y&R and Dentsu, the largest advertising agency in the world.

During his years on Wall Street, Jim was Chief Marketing Officer of Lehman Brothers and CS First Boston (now Credit Suisse).

Jim also had a successful strategic consulting practice for more than a decade, working with clients in the financial services, telecom, defense, technology and restaurant industries. While a consultant, Jim co-founded and became CEO of HipCricket, a groundbreaking mobile marketing firm that went public in 2006. He was also a director of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group and served as a member of their executive committee when the company went public.

Jim is an investor in several private equity and hedge funds and invests in and advises early stage companies. He also serves as a mentor at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.

Jim holds a BA in Psychology and Economics from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard University. He has served on many community boards in his hometown of Westport, CT.