Can Cannabis Solve the Opioid Crisis?

It’s hard to turn on the daily news and not hear about another accidental overdose of opioid pain medications. Long-term use of these strong pain relievers can lead to immunity. If the medication doesn’t work as well, some patients take more, not realizing the dangerous situation they’re in. 

Unfortunately, some patients with chronic pain don’t experience relief even from these potent medications. For some, they can only take enough of the pain before they give up. Some people also sell their opioid medications on the street where those who are addicted to them have a constant supply. Drug addiction can lead to the same medication immunity while the drug abuser is continually trying to find the perfect high. This often leads to an accidental overdose.

CBD and cannabis products are legalized in several states, offered as medical cannabis in others, and legal only for your growth in several more. The increasing use of these natural medications has affected death rates due to opioids, but CBD and drug interactions could still occur.

 

+What are Opioids?

Opioids are strong painkillers that are often prescribed to those suffering from chronic pain. They can also be used for short-term pain while a patient is recovering from a motor vehicle accident, a sports injury, or even surgery. These potent medications can lead to long-term abuse, especially for those who live with daily pain. 

A Quick List of Opioid Medications?

  • Oxycodone and medications that contain oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Codeine and medicines that contain codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone and medications that contain hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone

Opioid painkillers are also referred to as narcotics. These medications require a patient to show proper identification when picking up the prescription. However, that hasn’t stopped people from abusing these medications. 

Patients who have been prescribed opioids over a long period of time may have difficulties when they stop taking it in the form of withdrawal symptoms. Many doctors suggest tapering off of these types of medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms. It is still an uncomfortable process, and cannabis is not known to cause significant withdrawal effects. 

Previous Studies

From 1999 to 2010, a nationwide study was performed to compare the number of deaths due to opioid over each year of the study. During this time, there were shifts in the cannabis culture and industry. Before the beginning of the study, California had written some very progressive policies into law, and they were only the first.

These changes continued throughout the 11-year study. Once the study was closed and the data analyzed, it became apparent that the increasing use of cannabis and CBD appeared to be lowering the number of opioid-related deaths seen each year.

Current Studies

The groundbreaking study we mentioned above was followed up by another study being conducted not only to reproduce the results found in the first study, but also to see if the positive effects of cannabis seen then were continuing into a new decade. 

The results can be misleading. The new study did verify the data collected in the first one. However, the results based on the more recent data seemed to show that opioid deaths were increasing despite cannabis becoming more popular.

Related or Unrelated

There are two schools of thought about these two studies and what the results mean. It’s essential to look at what other factors may have been affecting the opioid-related death statistics. 

Why opioid use is on the rise:

  • Better availability of street-manufactured Fentanyl.
  • Pharmaceutical representatives assured doctors that opioid painkillers were not addictive throughout the 90s.

The easy transition from prescription pain medications to synthetic opioids available on the street once a doctor discontinues the prescription.

Because so much has changed in the opioid world, both legal and illicit, the overdose statistics are now independent of cannabis uses. However, as medical cannabis becomes more widely accepted, it may be an alternative treatment for opioid addiction. At that point, researchers may find data closer to that observed during the first 1999 to 2010 study.

Benefits of CBD and Cannabis Use

CBD is known to give patients the benefits of medical cannabis without the cerebral, altered conscious feeling of THC. Plants that are grown for high levels of CBD often have little or no THC in them. Proven benefits include pain relief, less anxiety, and better sleep for those with insomnia. Many people use hemp cream for pain, which is now being sold all over the internet. 

The most common use of medical cannabis is for chronic pain relief. Medical cannabis for more severe, acute pain may not be as effective. However, cannabis may help the patient rest and sleep, which are vital in the recovery process.  

Cannabis as a Replacement for Opioid Painkillers

Many specialists believe that opioid painkillers are still the most helpful for acute pain caused by surgery, injury, and the like. These strong medications can cause patients to become addicted to them quickly, so switching to another form of pain management as soon as possible is advised. 

Once a doctor prescribes medical cannabis as a long-term solution for chronic pain, a patient would not need the opioid medications anymore, and the cycle of addiction can be broken. Once this cycle is broken and cannabis is commonly used for pain, fewer patients will turn to the street for manufactured and synthetic opioids. This will also lead to fewer opioid overdoses.

A New Way of Thinking

There was a time when cannabis was widely used for pain management, even if it wasn’t legal. When the 1990s came along, and opioids became all the rage in pain relief, misled by pharmaceutical companies that either didn’t know how addictive these medications were or didn’t care to find out, the seeds of the opioid crisis were planted. 

In the early years of the 2000s, when the epidemic was realized, the number of opioid-related deaths was climbing exponentially. Now, with medical cannabis as an option for chronic pain, many researchers are expecting patients to opt for cannabis and cannabis-related products knowing they have little chance for addiction and a much shorter list of side effects.

Written by the team at CBD Education Online

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