Miracle in a bottle? An alternative to opioids changing lives in the Mid-South

WATCH: Miracle in a bottle? An alternative to opioids changing lives in the Mid-South

A legal alternative to opioids and medical marijuana is changing lives in the Mid-South.

Karen Smith told FOX13 her life changed for the better because of the drug. The former hairdresser suffered from chronic shoulder pain and a terrible case of plantar fasciitis. She figured it couldn't hurt to try the oil herself.

Now, Smith takes 5 or 6 drops of the oil each day under her tongue.

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“Within like three weeks, my shoulder was like 90 percent better,” one user told FOX13. “And in six weeks, my foot was almost completely... it was gone."

CBD stands for Cannabidiol. It’s extracted from the hemp plant, which is marijuana's non-threatening cousin.

The active ingredient is THC, like that found in marijuana, but in much lower doses. 
Cannabidiol is legal in every state.

Hemp looks like marijuana, and the crop is licensed by the state of Tennessee.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Agriculture told FOX13 hemp must have less than 0.3 percent of THC.

FOX13’s Valerie Calhoun found some doctors in Memphis are already urging their patients to try CBD oil instead of opioids.

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Dr. Robert Burns is a Gerontologist in Memphis. He researched CBD oils and said they have a "viable biologic basis" for working. He now recommends the oil to patients as an alternative to opioids.

"It does not make you high,” Dr. Burns told FOX13.

“For people who have pain – either neuropathic pain, a disc that is bad or bad arthritis – it does seem to help,” Dr. Burns continued.

FOX13 met Sherry Henson. She uses CBD oil to ease her pain.

“I was totally desperate,” she said. “The pain was so severe...it was debilitating."

Henson went to a series of doctors for nearly two years to find relief from nerve pain.

“Nothing was working. I didn't like taking opioids and muscle relaxers,” she said. “I didn't like the way it made me feel and I was afraid of getting addicted.”

She saw Karen Smith's Facebook post about her experience and decided she had nothing to lose.

“Overall, I'm pretty much pain free,” Henson said.

Smith and Henson agree there is a stigma about using CBD because of its relationship to marijuana, but they agree with Dr. Burns on a fact regarding the substance.

“We may not need medical marijuana,” they said. “This may be a good alternative... and probably a cheaper alternative."

We asked Dr. Burns about the downside. He said side effects can include dizziness or nausea – and he has concerns because sales of this oil are NOT regulated.

Dr. Burns uses the drops himself and on his elderly dog. He said it eases her tremors.

When buying CBD or hemp oil, Dr. Burns said make sure the product has been verified by an outside company and pay attention to the numbers on the bottle like "500 and "1000."

“The higher the number, the more concentrated the CBD oil is… so if you're buying a 1000 mg it's twice as strong as a 500 mg, so you don't use the same dose,” Dr. Burns said.

He advises patients start with the lowest dose and stop using if you feel dizzy or ill.

CBD oil doesn’t work for everyone, and it costs between $70 and $100 a bottle.

Before beginning use, talk to your healthcare provide to make sure it doesn’t work against your current medications.

Find out how you can grow Hemp legally in Tennessee:

Find out what the Centers for Disease Control says about Hemp products:

Karen Smith and Sherry Hensen bought their hemp products here: