How Cannabis is Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Key facts about opioid addiction, how cannabis helps those affected, and where to start if you need help.

Opioids are the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drug for severe and chronic pain. They are an effective pain reliever, but they are also highly addictive, have many negative health side effects, and if you take too many, they can result in fatal overdose. With doctors prescribing so many opioid based medicines to patients, the United States has found itself within an opioid epidemic, filled with addiction and overdoses.

The good news is, medical cannabis is showing hope for those suffering from opioid addiction. According to Harvard, one study concluded, “when medical marijuana laws went into effect in a given state, opioid prescriptions fell by 2.21 million daily doses filled per year. When medical marijuana dispensaries opened, prescriptions for opioids fell by 3.74 million daily does per year”. These observations were very apparent in prescriptions for hydrocodone and morphine. Another study analyzing

Medicaid prescription data over the course of five years showed that states with medical marijuana laws have seen opioid prescriptions lower by 5.88%. One more study determined that states with medical marijuana programs had a 24.8% lower opioid overdose mortality rate.

With these sorts of positive results, medical cannabis is clearly helping people overcome addictions to opioids. It seems to be reducing the number of prescriptions for opioids written by physicians, and it is saving lives by lowering the total number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses. This is because the cannabinoids like THC and CBD in cannabis, overlap some of the same signaling pathways opioids affect, including pain response and drug dependence. 

Cannabis helps by working as a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, without the dangerous side effects, risks of addiction, and fatal overdoses associated with opioids. Reducing inflammation is an important role in reducing and managing levels of pain. Both THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, and the terpenes produced in cannabis contribute to its use as a pain reliever. Cannabis is also reported to be good for healthy sleep cycles, which many patients suffering from acute or chronic pain, have trouble with. This makes cannabis a viable medicine when it comes to treating pain conditions, typically managed by opioid prescriptions.

Although medical cannabis seems to be a great tool to be used in reducing opioid addiction and deaths, it is only one of many tools that help provide relief to those in pain. If you’re in pain, or struggling with an addiction to opioids, talk to your physician about what options you have regarding medical cannabis and any other alternative therapies for pain management and addiction. You might find a recommendation for medical cannabis to be effective in improving the quality of your life, by reducing your pain symptoms, as well as reducing your dependance on opioid medications, saving you from their debilitating side effects. 

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