Anyone in North America who has access to media knows that we are tightly gripped in an ongoing opioid epidemic. Further, those of us who suffer from opioid addiction know first-hand what it means to experience withdrawal from these powerful and overprescribed pharmaceuticals.Thankfully, a growing body of scientific and anecdotal research exists that shows cannabis is an incredibly effective weapon in the battle against this daunting problem.
The irony that cannabis, once considered a street drug with no redeeming health benefits, is a potential solution to a huge wave of pharmaceutical abuse is not lost on our trusted producers. They knew for some time what the general public is only now becoming aware of.
In the latest episode of a CNN series on cannabis titled “Weed 4 Pot vs Pills”, it was revealed that over 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses daily, which is more than car accidents, breast cancer and even guns. The show then looked directly at cannabis not only as a non-addictive alternative to pain management over opiates, but also as an “exit drug” from opioid addiction.
The same goes for us here in the Great White North. In 2017, Canada broke a national record for opioid-related deaths, with fatalities between January and September surpassing the total number of deaths for all of 2016.
The research on cannabis as a far better alternative to opiates clearly indicates that pot can help save us from this epidemic.
A recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Journal showed that states in the U.S. with legalized cannabis had a reduction in opiate prescriptions. Individuals who were allowed to treat conditions with marijuana as opposed to pharmaceuticals saw a 6 percent drop in prescribed opiate use. Further, the study revealed patients on Medicare that lived in states with legal weed filled 14 percent fewer prescriptions for opioids.
A separate report from the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2017 indicated that patients used cannabis as a substitution for a variety of different medications, including opioids.
So how does cannabis act as a sufficient, non-addictive substitution for some of the world’s most powerful pharmaceuticals?
The human body has its own natural pain relief network in place called the endocannabinoid system. When someone ingests marijuana, the cannabinoids in the plant bind with our receptors and help us decrease pain along with a whole host of other benefits.
“We have this whole system of receptors and endogenous [internal] cannabinoids that are probably present to help us modulate the sensation of pain,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco. “That makes it sort of obvious that other cannabinoids — those that come from plants — could also have some benefit for pain.”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta who hosts the Weed series on cannabis for CNN concurs with these findings. “There is data to show [cannabis] can treat pain. That is not an opinion, that is fact,” he said. “It can interfere with pain signals that are going to the brain. It can also decrease inflammation, which is something opioids cannot do. It can do both of these things without the sad and tragic risk of overdose.”
What is being done?
Now that multiple studies have been revealed which highly indicate that cannabis can help with pain management and opioid addiction, it’s safe to assume that the scientific knowledge will help spur legalization further, both across North America and perhaps the rest of the world.
For example, in Canada, cannabis use among veterans has skyrocketed in the past six years which has led to a significant decrease of opioid use in the demographic. This positive step occurred despite the fact that Veterans Affairs has capped reimbursement for medical marijuana.
Some Final Thoughts
The legalization of cannabis has been a long, uphill battle against false information and unnecessary stigma towards a plant that has been used in medicinal practices since the dawn of record-keeping.
Now that governments in many parts of the world are recognizing the error of marijuana prohibition, a deluge of benefits are slowly being bestowed on humanity. These advantages include a powerful tool in the constant fight against addiction and overdose in every society.
Latest posts by Madison Cole (see all)
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