The Risks Of Painkillers vs. CBD

Pain & Painkillers

Whether it’s while you’re in the gym or outside of it, you’re going either injure yourself, and it sucks, because its meant to. Pain is to signal to the body that something is wrong, and it doesn’t discriminate even if the pain is self-inflicted (like those annoying leg -day DOMS!). Since our ancestors were able to feel pain, they’ve looked for ways to numb it, either with herbal medication or more recently thanks to scientific discovery – painkillers.

Painkillers can seem like your best friend when you’ve got a long day at work with a bad injury. Maybe you’ve got gym later after work but you’ve got a nasty headache? People take painkillers all the time, and as a result they’ve come to be viewed as run-of-the-mill medications, especially in sport. But this relaxed opinion on the use of painkillers, especially opiates, has become a big problem in the fitness industry.

There’s Different Kinds Of Painkillers & It’s Good To Know The Difference

Paracetamol: The most commonly used painkiller, paracetamol is so widely used due to its low number of side effects when taken at correct doses. That being said paracetamol is very toxic to the liver if the maximum dose is exceeded. Taking alcohol with paracetamol can increase the chance of toxicity, and people on regular long-term prescriptions of paracetamol who take too much can end up with serious consequences such as liver failure.

NSAIDS: We’ve covered this class of painkiller in our blog on inflammation. Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs are a class of painkillers including aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and diclofenac. Commonly taken for sports injuries, these painkillers can help reduce inflammation of damaged tissues, reducing swelling and granting pain relief. You can take NSAIDs alongside paracetamol just fine, but don’t make sure you don’t take one NSAIDs along with another, as overdosing on these kinds of drugs can be extremely damaging to the gut lining of your stomach.

Opiates: Opiate drugs function by blocking opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Opiates are generally prescribed for treatment of chronic pain. Lower strength opiates include codeine are used mainly for mild to moderate pain. Moderate strength opiates include dihydrocodeine, hydrocodone, tramadol and oxycodone and are prescribed for moderate to severe pain. The strong, high efficacy opiates include well known drugs such as morphine, these are used by injection for severe pain. The side effects of opiates of any strength include drowsiness & sedation, decreased alertness, agitation, nausea, constipation, euphoria and general respiratory problems such as shortness of breath or coughing. As opiates can be taken alongside NSAIDs and paracetamol, a combination of all codeine with the other two classes of painkillers are used. Different opiates should not be combined as this increases the risk of the side effects.

If You Wanted To Know How They Work, Here’s A Brief Explanation

Opiates act as depressants on the central nervous system, and are named after opium, a natural narcotic produced from poppy plant, but opiates can either be synthetic or natural. Opiates bind to specific receptors in the brain and as such sever the connection between the body tissues and the central nervous system. They have a very high risk of addiction due to the feeling of euphoria they can give, and while they may feel great, the symptoms of withdrawal are very difficult to deal with.

These symptoms include muscle aches, irritability, insomnia, abdominal cramping and vomiting. Opiates are also not that great for you – they can knock your bodily systems such as your hormone system completely out of whack, and as we’ve talked about in previous blogs, hormone regulation is important for bodybuilding.

Opiates and Bodybuilding – It’s A Big Problem

The sports, fitness & bodybuilding scene is rife with injuries – everyone’s pushing themselves to the limit, and if you’re competing in any competition, you’re going to want to always train your 100%, and pain from injuries or from muscle tearing can be the difference between first or second place.

It’s no surprise that opiate use in these circles is higher than in Joe public. Research by the University of Washington looking at retired NFL players found that 52% of players used opiates during their active playing days and 71% admitted to misusing them. Opiate misuse isn’t restricted to the NFL either, with wrestling and bodybuilding among other disciplines with documented issues.

In the 2000’s the drug Nubain became very popular with the bodybuilding community due to a number of reasons:

  • It helped them to work past their pain thresholds during sets
  • It reduced lower back or joint pain
  • It was useful for helping them in getting to sleep
  • It kept competing bodybuilders cool and calm during those difficult prep weeks when they’re starved of carbohydrates for weeks.

It resulted in a number of bodybuilders becoming addicted, which can lead to the drugs losing the effect, requiring higher doses every time, and can lead down a path of increased doses or transitions to harder opiates such as fentanyl or heroin.

Its important to note that while we’re talking about athletes, power-lifters, strongmen and bodybuilders here – they are first and foremost human beings, and that opiate addiction is a serious problem in our generation across the entire population. However there is an alarming correlation between enhanced bodybuilders and opiate addictions. Multiple scientific studies have linked the abuse of narcotics to the use of performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS).

In 2012 a paper found that use of AAS could increase sensitivity towards narcotics and stimulants, which could increase the chance of developing addiction. Another study looking into the sudden or unnatural deaths of athletes where anabolic steroids were involved found that one-third of cases the death was a result of fatal combinations of steroids and opiates.

CBD Gives You The Benefits With Less Of The Side Effects

CBD manipulates your pain receiving pathways to your central nervous system similar to opiates. While the exact mechanism is still largely unknown, CBD can help with chronic and neuropathic pain, as well as reduce inflammation. CBD also has additional benefits that are just as useful as the pain relief – including triggering the release of endorphins, functioning as a muscle relaxant, and helping to regulate your melatonin and cortisol levels to help calm you down at night and improve the quality of your sleep. The effects of CBD can last three to five hours, and if you take it through liquid drops held in the mouth, the effects can be felt within minutes.

Additionally, unlike opiates, CBD has been found to have very little to no side effects and is recognised to be non-addictive. A 2016 study found that cannabis use was associated with an over 60% decrease in opioid use in patients suffering from chronic pain, with the transition being associated with an improvement to quality of life with less side effects.

CBD can allow you to get the same pain-relief and soothing benefits to help you train your best in the gym without having to sacrifice your health and suffer the side effects.

If you’re interested – here at Nordic Botanics we have multiple natural hemp products with a range of different applications to suit your every need.


  1. Boehnke, K., Litinas, E. and Clauw, D.J. Medical Cannabis Use Is Associated With Decreased Opiate Medication Use in a Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey of Patients With Chronic Pain. The Journal of Pain. 17(6) 739-44.
  2. Cottler, L.B., Abdallah, A. Ben, Cummings, S.M., Barr, J., Banks, R. and Forchheimer, R. (2011) Injury, pain, and prescription opioid use among former National Football League (NFL) players. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 116(1–3) 188–194.
  3. Darke, S., Torok, M. and Duflou, J. (2014) Sudden or Unnatural Deaths Involving Anabolic-androgenic Steroids. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 59(4) 1025–1028.
  4. Nyberg, F. and Hallberg, M. (2012) Interactions Between Opioids and Anabolic Androgenic Steroids: Implications for the Development of Addictive Behavior. International Review of Neurobiology, 102 189–206.

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