How Could Cannabis Help Me Reduce or Eliminate My Opiate Pain Medicine?
If your medical condition causes you chronic or intractable pain, you may now consider using cannabis instead of opiates in Ohio. For many patients, the side effects and risk of addiction make opiate medicines not an ideal choice for treatment. For others, treatment with cannabis may help users who currently use opiates to reduce the number of pills they need to take and perhaps to reduce their dependence on them.
History of Pain Management in America
Despite evidence confirming analgesic effects on a number of pain conditions, cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1942. Cannabis was officially outlawed for any use (medical included) with the passage of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. Cannabis currently still sits on Schedule I, a category for substances which have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug, substance, or chemical under medical supervision.
Opioids are a group of pain-relieving pharmaceutical drugs that work by stimulating your brain’s opioid receptors. Opioids are made from the poppy plant and are synthesized in a laboratory to produce substances such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl. What makes opioid medications effective for treating pain is also what makes them extremely dangerous. At lower doses, opioids can produce sedentary effects, but higher doses can slow your breathing and heart rate, which can be fatal.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the feelings of pleasure that result from taking an opioid can make you want to continue experiencing those feelings, which may lead to an addiction you can’t control.
The Opiate Epidemic
The first wave of the U.S. opiate epidemic began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s. Pharmaceutical companies assured healthcare providers that the pain-relieving drugs were safe and effective. In turn, doctors prescribed opiate medicines as a first-line treatment for various kinds of pain. By 2012, doctors in the U.S. had written more than 255 million opioid prescriptions.
The statistics on opioid abuse are telling: the number of drug overdose deaths increased by nearly 5 percent from 2018 to 2019 and has quadrupled since 1999. Over 70 percent of the 70,630 deaths in the U.S. in 2019 involved an opioid.
The opioid epidemic across the U.S. has worsened as another widespread health crisis recently intersected it—the Coronavirus pandemic. The American Psychological Association predicted a fourth wave of the opiate epidemic, citing users self-medicating their emotional trauma. Despite decades of research on the most effective means to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), overdose deaths remain at an all-time high, and relapse remains pervasive.
Scientific Support of Reducing Opiate Medicines with Cannabis
The endocannabinoid and opioidergic systems are known to interact in many different ways. A 2018 study delved into this relationship. In an exhaustive review, the National Academies of Science and Medicine confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for chronic pain in adults. The studies showed that given access to cannabis, individuals using opioids for chronic pain were able to decrease their use of opioids by 40–60 percent and report that they prefer cannabis to opioids. Evidence suggests that the most effective tool for relapse prevention is medication-assisted pharmacotherapy, combined with social support.
This same 2018 study also suggested ample evidence exists that cannabis may be an effective tool to curb symptoms during the acute opioid withdrawal period.
Making the Switch
The spike in opiate prescriptions has directly contributed to an increase in the number of first-time consumers of illicit opioids like heroin, which is commonly laced with fentanyl. Regardless of whether you were prescribed opiates or obtained them via illegal means, cannabis might be helpful in your relief from OUD.
Opiate Use Disorder is not one of Ohio’s qualifying conditions to receive a medical marijuana card, but many who suffer from OUD are likely to qualify under another condition such as chronic or intractable pain. Make an appointment with DocMJ today. Our trusted physicians can help you navigate your individual situation.
About the Author:
Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Doc MJ and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.