CBD Vs. Prescription Pills [Can You Really Compare?]

It is fair to say that Americans ‘abuse’ prescription pills and in turn, these Big Pharma creations are wreaking havoc on our bodies. Furthermore, the CDC released the following list of prescription pill statistics and frankly, they make for horrifying reading:

  • Almost 49% of Americans used at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days.
  • 23% of people used at least three prescription drugs over the same timeframe.
  • Almost 12% of people used a minimum of five prescription drugs in the last 30 days.
  • 3.7 billion drugs are provided or ordered during physician visits annually and over three-quarter of doctor visits involve drug therapy.

Please note, the above data was relevant for 2011-2014. Fast forward to the 2016 National Study on Drug Use and Health, and you clearly see the impact of being a heavily medicated society. According to the study*, over 54 million people aged 12+ have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons during their lifetime. The United States consumes around 80% of the world’s opioids which has led to at least 90 deaths a day from opioid-related overdoses.

If you’re thinking “there has to be a better way to deal with medical problems”, then you’ll be relieved to learn that there is. The problem is that the solution is illegal on a federal level; or is it? CBD is one of marijuana’s non-intoxicating compounds and while its legal status remains cloudy, research showing its array of medical benefits is not. In this article, we compare and contrast CBD and prescription pills.


Marijuana has been hailed as a potential weapon in the fight against the opioid epidemic. A 2017 study by Reiman, Welty, and Solomon found that an incredible 93% of patients preferred marijuana to opioids when managing pain. 97% of the group of over 2,800 participants also strongly agreed/agreed that cannabis use enabled them to reduce their opioid intake. 69% of the group stated that they preferred weed to opioids while 70% said the side effects were preferable to those caused by opioids.

Another study, this time conducted by HelloMD and Brightfield Group, analyzed CBD use in 2,400 members of the HelloMD community. 42% of CBD users said they were able to stop using traditional painkillers such as Tylenol and prescription medication such as Vicodin. 80% said they found CBD to be either ‘very or extremely effective.’

Side Effects

As it turns out, there is no comparison; as comparing CBD to some prescription drugs would be like comparing apples to oranges.

As of now, there are thousands of prescription drugs and hundreds of analgesics (painkillers), although the latter can be broadly grouped into three categories:

  • Opioids such as codeine and morphine.
  • Non-narcotic analgesics such as Tylenol.
  • NSAIDs such as Advil.

These drugs come with dozens of side effects including disability, congenital anomalies and addiction that can lead to death. ‘Regular’ side effects include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and insomnia. According to the FDA, there have been one million deaths due to prescription drug ‘adverse effects’ in the period between 2011 to the middle of 2017.

In contrast, CBD’s side effects are minimal. First of all, it is non-psychoactive which means you don’t get ‘high’ and it is relatively safe for most adults to use. While prescription medication blocks pain but does nothing to treat the underlying cause, CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system for a more natural cure. It promotes homeostasis in the body by relaxing muscles and reducing inflammation at the site of the trauma.

Unlike opioids, and contrary to the literature surrounding the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, CBD is NOT addictive. Not only are its side effects minimal and mild, but CBD also helps alleviate common side effects of prescription drugs such as nausea and vomiting. Of course it is extremely important to consult with your primary physician before deciding to go down the CBD route.

Availability & Cost

Unfortunately, prescription pills are almost as easy to come by as candy. With over 75% of physician visits ending in the prescription of these drugs, it is a simple matter of booking an appointment and requesting the pills. Despite the easy availability, prescription medication is more expensive in the United States than anywhere else in the world. In 2014, Americans spent an average of $1,112 per person on prescription drugs compared to average Canadian spending of $772.

Canadians routinely pay 70% less for the same drugs as Americans. For example, as of January 2018, a 40mg pill of Nexium sold for $7.78 in the U.S. compared to $3.37 in Canada and $2.21 in the United Kingdom. Abilify sold for $34.51 a pill compared to just $4.65 in Canada. The injectable medication, Humira, costs $1,362 per prescription in the UK, and $2,669 in the U.S.

The problem with the American market is that there is no regulation or negotiation of new prescription drugs when they enter the marketplace. Drugmakers can set their own prices for drugs and their marketing team does the rest. Before you know it, you’re paying $1,000 a month for a prescription drug that should cost 10% of the price. Sure, you can get cheap generic versions of a drug when the patent runs out but not everyone has that luxury.

While high-quality CBD oil is by no means cheap, it is far less expensive than its prescription medication counterpart. Take PureKana’s natural CBD oil for example. This full-spectrum tincture offers 1000mg of CBD for $139. This equates to a month’s supply if you use 33mg a day.

Life Changer Versus Life Ender?

It would be an outright lie to say that all prescription drugs are bad. Many provide genuine relief to patients but the main issue is the abuse of these drugs. It is patently ironic that marijuana has been derided as an addictive substance when opiate addiction is a disease that is ravaging American society.

When someone takes an opiate, the blood travels through the bloodstream and creates artificial dopamine and endorphins. You feel a sense of satisfaction and pleasure and since it is an artificially created experience, the only way to feel the same way again is to take more opiates. After you use opioids for a certain period, your brain stops creating dopamine and endorphins so you need to consume more of the drug to get the same effects.

Eventually, users begin to fake symptoms to acquire more of the drugs and ultimately, many users turn their attention to heroin because it is cheaper and even easier to get a hold of than expensive opioids. In the long-term, opioids change the way your brain’s nerve cells work. When the drug is taken away, the result is a series of unpleasant sensations, better known as withdrawal symptoms.

CBD works very differently, as Arby Barroso, founder of Green Roads World, a prominent CBD hemp oil company, found out. Barroso was prescribed a cocktail of prescription drugs for his hip arthritis. Eventually, he became addicted but rather than become a ‘slave to the drug’, Barroso researched the effects of CBD. When he began using the cannabinoid, he was able to wean off the harmful drugs and he hasn’t required any prescription medication since September 2013.

People Still Combine CBD With Prescription Drugs

The HelloMD study found that while respondents were happy with CBD’s effects, 57% of them admitted using pharmaceuticals and CBD together. This is despite acknowledging that CBD is more effective than prescription or over the counter drugs. There are many reasons why people still use prescription drugs.

For example, although research on marijuana, and CBD in particular, for medical purposes has yielded encouraging results, such research is also in its infancy. The public is waiting for further confirmation that marijuana is a safer and more effective way to treat medical problems than prescription drugs.

Final Thoughts on CBD vs Pharmaceutical Pills

Despite the myriad of advantages enjoyed by CBD, it would be irresponsible for us to declare it as the clear winner of the battle. At this time, the sheer volume of variables and medical factors involved means that finding a victor is a near impossibility. We have to look at things such as health conditions, genetic considerations and the nature of the illness being treated. Although studies have shown that CBD is a more effective painkiller than opioids, it is true that some people feel a greater impact with prescription medication.

If you decide to use CBD as an alternative to painkillers such as opioids for example, you should be able to purchase it online. It is available in various forms so if you don’t like the idea of smoking or vaping, you can consume it in edible or oil form. Just remember, before you decide to purchase any CBD products, make sure you consult with your primary doctor.

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