CBD Potential to Reduce Prescription Opioid Use for Pain

Has CBD helped you in some way by combating pain or substance abuse?


Because of CBD’s ability to reduce pain, experts and athletes alike feel that it may have potential uses in terms of reducing the use of prescription opioids for pain. A combination of opinions and insights from professional athletes and scientific research shows promise for the use of CBD in this way.

Research Supporting CBD to Reduce Opioid Use

Given the vast opioid problem, there has been recent research into the potential of CBD to reduce the use of prescription opioids. A 2019 study evaluated patients who had used opioids for chronic pain for at least a year. It found that 53 percent of the patients were able to reduce or completely stop using opioids within just eight weeks of starting to consume CBD-rich hemp extracts. Additionally, 94 percent reported an improvement in their quality of life.

In 2013, another study looked at the long-term safety of THC-CBD extract for cancer patients who had tried to use opioids to treat cancer-related pain without results. The study found that patients who used a THC-CBD extract spray experienced pain relief and did not have to increase their dose over time, something that is common with opioids. Additionally, it the study reported no serious effects from long-term use.

This 2013 study was a follow-up to a 2010 study that gave similar cancer patients a combination of THC-CBD extract and opioids or just opioids to treat their pain. That study found that the inclusion of THC-CBD extract provided more relief than just the opioids.

A Correlation That Supports the Connection

Although correlation does not show causation, a 2014 American study found that states that allow for medical marijuana experienced less death from prescription painkiller overdoses. The report used data from 1999 to 2010 in all 50 states, at which time 13 states allowed for medical marijuana. Those states had a 25 percent lower rate of overdose from prescription painkillers after they legalized medical marijuana, on average.

It is important to note that this just shows a trend and is not conclusive evidence since it was not a controlled study. It also did not account for prevention strategies and campaigns. There was also the risk of misclassifications for causes of death. Even with those limitations, the study shows promise for the legalization of marijuana potentially reducing opioid use.

Support from Professional Athletes

In recent years, many professional athletes have been outspoken about the potential benefits of CBD or marijuana for pain, even those who play sports where its use is not allowed.


Nate Jackson, a former NFL player, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in 2017 outlining that he feels pot does better for pain than opioids. He also wrote that the latter is a serious problem in the NFL. According to Jackson, he did not take any opioids until he was in the professional league, and he never asked for them. Instead, they were given out for any injury. He went as far as to say, “Pain pills were as common as shoulder pads and cleats.”

Jackson described his side effects of opioids, including withdrawal and feeling “slow, sad, and dumb.” Finally, he combined opioids with cannabis and was able to take less of the prescription drugs. This reduced his withdrawal symptoms. By 2007, he just used cannabis for an injury and had extremely positive results, including no pain or inflammation.


Former NBA player Jay Williams made a similar point in a piece he wrote in 2016. He wrote that he became addicted to opioids following a motorcycle crash. Williams explained what he feels is a double standard as to how marijuana and opioids are treated. He said that despite many experts agreeing that there is a lower risk of overdose or addiction with cannabis, it is punished by sports leagues. He argued that marijuana should be more accepted as a potential treatment for pain, so other athletes and non-athletes do not become addicted to opioids as he did.


The country is facing an opioid epidemic and professional athletes are commonly prescribed these addictive painkillers. Scientific research and the experiences of some professional athletes suggest that marijuana or CBD from the plant could provide an alternative to opioids or even just allow for reduced use of opioids with similar pain management results.