Cannabidiol as an Opioid-Sparing Agent

E. Council, B.S. Research Biologist

In the past decade, the number of opioid prescriptions for chronic pain has significantly increased. Opioids block the transmission of pain signals to the brain and raise dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens to produce antinociceptive effects. While opioids effectively reduce chronic pain, the constant rise of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens causes the brain’s reward system to reach a state of opioid dependence. Opioid use and abuse, causing opioid dependence and a plethora of opioid-related deaths, has created a demand for opioid-sparing medications. Opioid-sparing medications are used in combination with opioids to lower the opioid dose without losing antinociception.

Cannabidiol is chemically similar to endogenous cannabinoids, therefore can interact with many enzymes and receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Due to its ability to provide antinociception, cannabidiol has been investigated as an opioid alternative. Furthermore, research shows cannabidiol reducing the necessary opioid dosage in opioid-dependent individuals Cannabidiol is believed to reduce the necessary opioid dose by acting as a competitive inhibitor of opioid-metabolizing enzymes. Furthermore, studies show cannabidiol treatment reduces opioid craving in opioid-dependent individuals and relieves anxious and depressed behaviors related to opioid dependence. These characteristics make cannabidiol an excellent candidate as an opioid-sparing medication.

This information was gathered from “Cannabidiol as an Opioid-Sparing Agent: A Narrative Review”. For more information see:

Council, E. (2019) Cannabidiol as an Opioid-Sparing Agent: A Narrative Review. Manuscript Submitted for Publication.