Opioid addiction in the U.S. has sky-rocketed in recent years, with more than 130 people now dying every day from overdosing on prescription painkillers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Millions of Americans now take opioid-derived painkillers to manage a variety of medical conditions, but more and more research now suggests that marijuana could be used as a substitute or supplement in treatment.
The problem with opioids is that while they are effective at alleviating pain, they are also highly addictive and, if taken to excess, can negatively impact on essential bodily functions such as breathing. This means that opioid intake must be strictly managed in terms of dosage and duration of use.
The added benefit of marijuana is that it is far less addictive than using opioids, while the potential for overdosing on cannabis is basically non-existent.
Marijuana therefore offers a safer alternative to opioid use, and as such has the potential to reduce opioid addiction.
A recent study demonstrated that patients were able to stop taking opioids or drastically reduce their dosage through using marijuana. The study participants reported that supplementing or substituting their opioid use with marijuana had increased their quality of life.
Using marijuana alongside opioids is effective at gradually reducing dependency on opioids and enabling patients to overcome withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug. Pain and symptoms can still be adequately managed whilst reducing the required amount of opioid-derived painkiller.
More and more research is adding evidence to the suggestion that marijuana is an effective and safer alternative to opioids for treating a multitude of medical conditions. Thirty-three states in the U.S. now recognize this in law by permitting the use of medical marijuana.
Still, the full potential of cannabis for managing pain and treating medical conditions is in its infancy and requires further studies. This, however, is hampered by federal law which classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance meaning it is illegal and determined to have limited to no medical value.
Changing federal law to reflect marijuana’s potential to help combat the nation’s opioid epidemic would open the door to more extensive research that would likely benefit millions of patients.