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As we age, our bodies are at higher risk of contracting chronic illnesses, diseases, and health conditions. Senior citizens, over the age of 50 years are therefore more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (heart disease), cancer, arthritis, diabetes, respiratory conditions and many more.
These health conditions often result in pain and inflammation that is generally treated with prescription opioid pharmaceutical medications. These medications, however, have severe side effects – most commonly the development of dependency on the drugs that turns into an addiction. Addiction to prescription medications such as opioids is on the rise in the United States where an alarming 80% of global opioid drugs are consumed. 
How Do Opioids Function?
Opioids function by blocking pain sensation  that are sent to the brain by attaching to nerve cell receptors in the brain and the body. In addition to providing effective pain relief, opioids also have a calming effect  and stimulate the production of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that is mainly responsible for feelings of joy and happiness. These psychoactive effects are however just part of the reason that the drug can become addictive.
With prolonged use, opioid medications can change the brain chemistry making it less receptive to the pain-relieving and psychoactive effects of the drug. Patients often require increased dosages in order to get the same level of pain relief that was achieved when first taking these types of medications which in turn leads to the abuse of opioid-based drugs.
For seniors suffering from chronic health conditions that require ongoing treatment and pain relief, this means there is a much higher risk of becoming dependent on their pain medications  than when the same drugs are prescribed to treat acute conditions over a shorter term. Apart from dependency, there are other adverse side effects associated with the drugs.
Side Effects of Opioid Drugs
Addiction is the most common and dangerous side effects as it can lead to an overdose which in some cases, can be fatal. However, some of the common side effects may include:
– Nausea and vomiting
– Pruritus or skin itchiness
– Dry mouth
– Dizziness or faintness
– Drowsiness or sedation
The less common side effects that are more likely to appear after extended use include:
– Muscle pain
– Anxiety and irritability
– Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
– Decreased central respiratory drive and respiratory depression
– In rare cases, fever
These less common side effects are however more likely to be dangerous especially where respiratory depression is concerned in the case of an overdose which is far more likely to result in fatality. Side effects need to be closely monitored and treated in order to prevent further health conditions from arising such as impacted fecal matter resulting from constipation.
The severe, long-term and fatal side effects are more likely to affect the elderly who are using opioid medication to alleviate pain associated with chronic health conditions. These additional side effects are a contributing factor to senior citizens seeking alternatives to opioid drugs for pain relief.
In various studies , it has been found that when a human body is subjected to regular, long-term usage of opioid for pain relief, it usually builds up a tolerance to the effects of opioids.
There are two main issues. The first problem is, if a person has been on opioid medication for a more extended period of time than they build up a habit. The second and the major problem is, with time body builds up more receptors to absorb these opioids. Now just think in this way, before your body had four receptors, and so only four molecules of opioids were needed to relieve your pain. But now, your body has 100 receptors, and so you need 100 molecules to get the same pain relief. What this actually means? It means now you need to increase your dosage of opioid and this problem just continues.
This results in less effective pain relief, and now your body will react utterly different to any pain. Now even a simple pinch, or a push will cause severe pain to that part of the body.
The conclusion is, the longer you are subjected to the opioid medication, the more habituated you will become.
How Does CBD Function?
CBD or cannabidiol binds with endocannabinoid receptors that form part of the nervous and endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body. The ECS is responsible for regulating pain in the body and CBD is, therefore, an effective treatment for short and long term pain relief associated with a variety of different health conditions.
It is important to note that pure CBD does not have any of the psychoactive side effects associated with cannabis use as it does not contain any THC which is responsible for an altered state of mind. This means that CBD does not result in addiction for reasons related to seeking the psychoactive properties of cannabis or marijuana use.
The body also does not build up a tolerance to CBD. The medication, therefore, continues to provide the same pain relieving properties for an extended period of use making it highly suitable for the treatment of chronic health conditions. It is also therefore much less likely to develop a dependency on CBD.
Side Effects of CBD
Although some research may lead to the belief that there are no side effects associated with CBD due to the lack of THC, this is a misconception. Side effects are rare and are mild in cases where they do present which has resulted in this misconception. Some of the acute side effects that may be associated with CBD use include:
– Nausea and vomiting
– Dry Mouth
– Changes in appetite
– Changes in mood
There is a lack of scientific research and evidence as to the long-term side effects of extended CBD use. However, there is some evidence to suggest that it may lead to an increase in the production of liver enzymes which could result in liver damage.
Due to the mildness and acuteness of these side effects, no treatment for the side effects are commonly necessary unless they present in a severe form in which case discontinuing use immediately is effective. There are no recorded fatalities associated with either the side effects of CBD or overdose.
Benefits of Opting For CBD Over Opioid Drugs For Seniors
In states where the medical use of marijuana has been legalized, 36% of the registry is made up of people over the age of 50 years, and these statistics don’t reflect those that are using CBD instead of cannabis.
This shows that seniors are more readily making a move to using this natural alternative rather than opting for conventional medication to treat a range of health conditions, and the associated pain. The benefits of making this switch are numerous.
– The mild, acute, and even lack of side effects in comparison with the potentially lethal side effects of opioids is one of the most attractive benefits for seniors.
– Continuous or extended use of the compound cannot result in developing a dependency on the medication or addiction whereas opioid addiction is rife.
– There is no chance of overdosing on CBD whereas 63% of fatalities caused by overdose were due to opioids in 2015. 
– The pain-relieving effects of CBD do not reduce after extended use whereas opioid use can result in the brain and body developing a tolerance to the drug.
– CBD has numerous additional health benefits over and above the pain-relieving effects; however, opioids detract from overall health and well-being.
Is CBD an effective alternative
A recent study conducted by Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research into the effects of cannabis published by the NCBI (National Center For Biotechnology Institute)  showed overwhelming results in favor of cannabis over that of opioids for chronic pain relief. A staggering 96% of participants provided that they used less opioid-based medications when using cannabis in conjunction with their regular prescription medication while experiencing the same pain-relieving effects. 81% of the study group said that they experienced more significant pain relief when substituting their prescription opioid medication entirely for cannabis.
It follows that CBD is as effective maybe in comparison with opioid drugs.
The Disadvantages of CBD for Seniors
One of the most considerable disadvantages in opting to use CBD as an alternative to opioid drugs is that it is not legal in every state. Another negative is that the products are not regulated by the FDA  and therefore provide varying degrees of efficacy. CBD and medical marijuana are currently not covered by private medical insurance or Medicare.
It is apparent that senior citizens suffering from health issues are leading the change for CBD to be offered more widely as an effective alternative to addictive and potentially fatal opioid-based pain medications.