Opioid addiction is an unrelenting illness that seems impossible to overcome. In fact, since 1999, opioid deaths have quadrupled. To put things in perspective, 44 people die of opioid addiction every single day; 78 if you include heroin. On top of that, 7,000 people are treated daily in the emergency room due to opioid abuse.
Opioid drugs are developed from the opium poppy or a synthetic version of it like hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, and heroin. The problem with using these drugs to treat chronic pain is that people begin to build up a tolerance and need more of the drug to feel the same pain-relieving effects. The result can lead to an insidious addiction for people who simply want to control their pain from a chronic illness, a surgery, or multiple surgeries. Fortunately, medical marijuana has been known to be a safer alternative to helping treat opioid addiction and relieving chronic pain symptoms.
Critics of medical marijuana claim that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to show that the plant’s medicinal effects are an effective treatment for opioid addiction. Other critics cite the potential to abuse medical marijuana or even use it in conjunction with opioids. Despite their well-intentioned protests, there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence to suggest that medical marijuana helps reduce harm on individuals. Marijuana is not physically addicting, and therefore, does not pose as big a threat to public safety as harder opiates. States that have adopted medical marijuana laws have seen a reduction of opioid prescriptions and a savings of $162.5 million per year in medical costs.
“Cue induced cravings” occur when a certain environmental stimuli triggers a person’s need for opioids.Triggers can be as innocuous as hearing the shake of a pill bottle, or witnessing drug use on television. Withdrawal symptoms typically include but are not limited to nausea, pain, and anxiety, all of which can be treated with cannabis relatively safely. Without anything to reduce their symptoms, opioid addicts experience irresistible urges to use opioids again. The struggle to handle these urges can be lifelong. Cannabidiol (CBD) in cannabis can help with these urges. CBD interacts with the serotonin system to block and “dissolve” those “cue induced cravings.”
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a compendium of 10,700 studies that showed a link between medical marijuana and chronic pain relief. Cannabinoids interact with pain receptors. It’s anti-inflammatory effects help reduce pain. Not only that, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound which makes it relatively safe for use in both adults and children. People typically use tinctures, salves, or other topical treatments for a delayed reaction (up to two hours) or a hit of their vape pen for immediate relief. In conjunction with other treatment like physical therapy, acupuncture, and other safe pain relief treatments, chronic pain can be reduced.
Research into the effects of medical marijuana in treating opioid addiction have been stalled by the Controlled Substances Act of 1979 which pairs marijuana with the likes of heroin. CBD can be seen as a direct competitor to opioid manufacturers. In fact, a major Fentanyl manufacturer is currently running clinical trials on CBD, while at the same time running anti-cannabis legislation. The fact that cannabis can help reduce cravings by reducing the anxious feelings associated with opioid withdrawals in a relatively safe manner speaks volumes for those looking for an answer.
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