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January 14, 2019

by Rachel, specialist for the Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida
Opioid addiction; it’s something we all hear about frequently, but might not know the actual extent of. It can start when someone starts abusing painkillers, or when someone starts taking illegal forms like heroin or fentanyl.

Opioids affect how our bodies and brains perceive pain. They flood the brain with dopamine and block pain receptors. From there, a dependency is formed, and thus the rabbit hole of addiction is formed.

A Growing Problem

In 2015, the American Society of Addiction Medicine found that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with opioids accounting for most those deaths at 33,091 out of 52,404. In addition, they found that 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids in 2012, which would allow every American adult to have access to a bottle, and then some.

Some will also turn to or start with illegal alternatives like heroin and fentanyl. The problem is, opioids are highly addictive and can damage your brain and liver, among other side effects. People take them for the pain relief, but can develop a tolerance and thus require more to keep feeling the same amount of relief.

opioid addiction
opioid addiction

Recovering from Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is an incredibly difficult condition to overcome but has been successfully accomplished thanks to various methods and practices.

The first step, the most difficult, is always detoxification. Purging one’s system of the drug in question causes adverse side effects, many of which are painful and leave the recovering addict seeking relief. This is why it’s so hard to overcome the addiction; withdrawal symptoms cause so much pain that they find it easier to go back to abusing the drug.

One option for treatment is using the pharmacological method. This involves using other drugs such as methadone to help manage the pain of withdrawal symptoms. Another method is therapy or counseling. Programs like Narcotics Anonymous or various clinics with outpatient and residential care serve as great ways for addicts to seek help. All this depends entirely on the recovering patient’s needs, but there are definitely a variety of options available.

Medical_Marijuana

Marijuana?

One of the options that isn’t readily available but might be a viable option for treating opioid addiction is using medical marijuana. Several studies and trials conducted by doctors have been conducted, including the ones listed below:

Dr. Gary Whitman of Canna Care Docs has treated around 80 patients who were addicted to opioids or other drugs. 75% of those patients stopped using the drugs when cannabis was used as a part of substitution therapy.
• In a study conducted by Dr. Saloner and his associates, it was found that states with legalized medical marijuana options showed fewer cases of opioid-related overdose.
• Another study shows that cannabis has the potential to help treat opioid addiction, but cautions that more research is needed to support this claim.
• Yasmin L. Hurd, Ph.D., a neurobiologist, published a paper in Trends in Neuroscience that advocated for further research regarding using cannabis to treat opioid addiction. She also led a small study that showed that cannabis helped heroin users suppress cravings.

Why Marijuana Needs to Be Legal

These studies show that while there have been some great small-scale successes with marijuana, further research is still required to completely understand what it has to offer. This is, unfortunately, where researchers run into road blocks.

Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug. This means that anyone who wants to research it has to go through a lot of trouble just to get approved by the DEA and Nida, and then have to find funding on top of that. If marijuana were to be re-classified or legalized, it could lead to a host of new opportunities, including further thorough research.

The Answer America Needs

As it stands, marijuana has shown great pain-relieving qualities and activates the same reactors that opioids do. It could help addicts manage their withdrawal symptoms, for example. Also, by making medical marijuana more accessible for those who need pain relief, fewer people would turn to opioids, much like the study mentioned above has shown.

There are still plenty of questions surrounding marijuana, which is why granting access to researchers is so important. It’s also worth noting that marijuana is not the solution for everyone and that there are various forms so it might take some trial and error to find what works for you. All in all, the only way we can truly discover marijuana’s hidden potential is by researching it.

***
Opioid addiction is an incredibly difficult demon to deal with. It can bring emotional, physical, and mental pain to addicts and their families, and can completely derail their lives. There are options available to addicts who want to seek treatment, but for many, medical marijuana is not one of them.
It might end up being a very viable option for them, but the reality is that we won’t know until further research can be conducted. Until then, we’ll have to rely on the limited research we have and the hope that further action will be taken regarding marijuana’s classification and legalization. Opioid addiction is just one of the many struggles we deal with, and finding more solutions will only help make it less of one.

Rachel is a media relations specialist for the Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida. In her spare time, she takes a special interest in health and fitness, including alternative treatments to common ailments.

Also view this great infographic from Apollo Cannabis.

 

cannabis opioid infographic

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  1. By M. Shaw Speed

    ,08 Jan 2018
    Not only is marijuana not medically available for treatment of opioid dependency, it is completely prohibited and discouraged on the suboxone plan. I have been addicted to pain killers since I was 18 yrs old, and I just turned 43 […]Read More
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