We have an increasingly serious opioid abuse problem in the U.S. Drug addiction has always been a major issue throughout the world, and it continues to plague generation after generation. Drug addicts compulsively look for ways to get their fix, despite knowing it is harmful for their health.
Addiction not only impacts the life of the abuser, it has an effect on everyone around them, including family and friends. Drug use will eventually have a negative impact on every aspect of a user’s daily life. Drug abuse is a substance-related disorder, and often the only way to overcome it is professional rehabilitation. If you’re concerned someone in your life might have an addiction, although it won’t be easy, talk to them and encourage them to get help.
The amount of people addicted to opioids has increased over the years, which has led to more opioid-related overdoses and deaths. It’s imperative we find a way to curtail this trend, and some are looking toward the use of medical cannabis to end the opioid epidemic.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin and synthetic versions thereof, which are often used to treat pain.They include fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone and codeine, in addition to others — most of which are only available by prescription.
Opioids work by attaching to receptors in the brain.They send a signal to the brain that blocks pain, slows down breathing and creates a calming feeling. When used for a short amount of time and as prescribed, opioids can be safe — although, even when used properly, dependency is still a risk. Since opioids have the ability to produce feelings of euphoria, they are highly addictive.This can lead to overdoses or death.
Opioids were originally derived from opium plants, which are used to create morphine.The earliest recorded use of opium for medical purposes goes back as far as 3400 B.C., and it has been in use in some form or another until the present day.
How Big of an Issue Is Opioid Abuse and can Medical Cannabis End the Opioid Epidemic?
In some cases, addicts who are no longer able to get their fix through prescription drugs will turn to heroin, increasing their chances of an overdose. If heroin is unavailable, there are new cases of people turning to over-the-counter diarrhea medicine to get their fix, which is just as dangerous and could have an impact on the heart.
How Is Cannabis Used Medically?
Cannabis use for medical purposes was first referenced as far back as 2900 B.C. by a Chinese emperor. It gained medical popularity in the West in the 1840s, and use of cannabis for medical reasons continues to this day.
The use of medical cannabis is becoming less stigmatized, and more states are passing laws to allow doctors to prescribe its use. Some conditions medical cannabis is used to treat include nausea caused by cancer treatments, seizure disorders, Crohn’s disease or muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis. However, the most common request for medical marijuana is to treat pain.
How Is Cannabis Used to Treat Pain?
One of the main reasons patients turns to opioid use is to curtail or improve chronic pain. Living with chronic pain can be incredibly difficult and debilitating. It not only impacts the physicality of the sufferer, it can also have an effect on their health, mood and overall well-being. Finding relief from chronic pain can improve a person’s daily life. This, coupled with the added sense of euphoria, can explain why so many use and abuse opioids.
The cannabis found in marijuana plants treats pain by altering the way nerves function. However, the science behind what medical marijuana does for pain is lacking, and the FDA hasn’t approved the plant to be used medically. However, some physicians and users of medical marijuana will attest to its pain-relieving ability.
How Could Medical Cannabis Replace Opioids?
Since most users of opioids are looking for ways to reduce their pain, and medical cannabis seems to have the ability to do just that, it seems like a natural replacement for more dangerous painkillers. After all, there have never been deaths related to cannabis overdoses.
Studies have been conducted to examine the possibility of replacing opioids with medical cannabis use, and states where medical cannabis is legal have seen a reduced rate of death from opioids. It seems only logical that an alternative pain-relief method can reduce the opioid epidemic. Lets save lives and conduct more studies to answer if medical cannabis end the opioid epidemic.
Why Hasn’t Medical Cannabis Replaced Opioids?
Using medical cannabis as an opioid replacement hasn’t become a worldwide practice for many reasons — chiefly, the lack of scientific research on the medical use of cannabis and the stigma that still surrounds marijuana. The drug is still classified as a Schedule I, which is the highest drug rating, and places it in the same category as heroin and hallucinogens such as LSD and peyote. This classification also means that marijuana has no medical uses and a high potential to be abused.
Medical cannabis also has some side effects, including dry mouth, insomnia, paranoia, drowsiness, respiratory problems and short-term memory loss, in addition to a few others. There have also been studies that have linked marijuana use to psychiatric disorders.
While the idea of using medical cannabis to replace opioid addiction seems promising and there are a few studies to back up its effectiveness, there just isn’t enough evidence. Addiction is an incredibly difficult disorder to overcome. The addict can’t do it alone, and while there are support groups and clinics that do what they can, there are limited resources to help addicts get and remain clean. We believe there should be even more studies and unless we don’t do more studies will never have the answer to this crucial question; will medical cannabis end the opioid epidemic?
Any progress that can be made in reducing the amount of opioid abusers and related deaths should be researched and given a chance. Thousands of lives depend on it. So we continue to ask the question if medical cannabis end the Opioid epidemic?
To read more of Jennifer’s work check out: Mindfulness Mama.