How Cannabis Treats Opioid Addiction
Did you know it’s estimated that over 30 million people worldwide abuse opioids?
Prescriptions of opioids have skyrocketed in the last 25 years, and today they account for the largest proportion of prescription drug abuse.
The statistics are actually quite alarming: approximately 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths involve opioids, and since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opiates, including prescription pain relievers and heroin, has quadrupled.
Yet, very little is being done to stop this epidemic. While many health experts seem at a loss about how to address this situation, lives are being lost and prescription profits are on the rise.
It is time we take a different approach, but instead of trying to concoct a pill which might or might not destroy our bodies, we can turn to cannabis to alleviate pain and overcome opioid addiction.
Cannabis Eases Withdrawal Symptoms
Opiate withdrawal can be a severe and even life-threatening process. Withdrawal symptoms can begin just hours from the last dose, peaking within 72 hours and last up to one week later.
Common side effects of an opiate withdrawal include:
Yet, these are all ailments cannabis has shown to be an effective treatment for. This isn’t just a theory or a hypothesis, people are actually turning to cannabis to wean themselves off of hard substances and it’s working.
A study in 2013 from the American Journal of Addiction revealed that cannabis use was associated with a decrease in withdrawal symptoms from chronic opioid abuse.
In fact, the researchers concluded:
“The present findings may point to novel interventions to be employed during treatment for opiate dependence that specifically target cannabinoid-opioid system interactions.”
No doubt, cannabis’ opportunity as a treatment for overcoming opioid addiction is huge.
Cannabis Has Zero Risk of Fatal Overdose
Thousands of lives are lost every year due to prescription pill overdoses. Meanwhile, no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose.
Studies indicate that cannabis has a health index of 40,000:1. This means that it would take 40,000 times the normal amount of cannabis to be fatal. It’s impossible to consume that much.
However, instead of cannabis, potentially fatal prescription pills such as Suboxone are frequently given to patients facing opioid dependence.
Suboxone, a mixture of buprenorphine (semi-synthetic opioid) and naloxone (an opiate blocker), was once thought to be a miracle drug and a popular choice for addiction treatment. Unfortunately regular doses of Suboxone can be extremely habit-forming. Some long-term Suboxone users even claim getting off the substance is more difficult than OxyContin and heroin.
Why throw the dice on such a risky treatment when you can just have some cannabis?
Cannabis Reduces Likelihood of Relapse
Quitting opiates is one of the biggest addiction challenges a person could face. It’s estimated that as many as 85-90% of people will experience a relapse during their first year of treatment.
Part of the challenge is that opiate addiction actually changes the chemistry of the brain by altering dopamine production. This in turn causes the brain to become dependent on the drug. Depending on the level of addiction, it can take months to years for dopamine levels to normalize.
So people withdrawing from opiates are highly susceptible to developing Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS). Known to cause maladies such as fatigue, severe depression, and increased sensitivity to pain – many addicts return to opiates to find relief.
Now, when we throw aside the outdated abstinence-only model so often demanded of people recovering from addiction, we find that cannabis can help here – with positive outcomes.
A study in the Drug and Alcohol Review found that 80% of medical marijuana users reported substituting cannabis for pain pills. And this is far from the only example.
Not only does cannabis help people stay off of harder substances, but it also helps them manage the symptoms they were looking to treat in the first place. Researchers in 2016 revealed yet again that cannabis is highly effective for treating chronic pain.
Meanwhile, every day over 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for misusing prescription opioids. In 2014, over 61% of drug overdose deaths involved some type of opioid.
Just imagine how many lives we would save if cannabis were suddenly legalized and we could teach everybody how to use it as a safer – if not one of the safest – medicine that provides a better quality of life.
Cannabis is Mind, Body, and Spirit Medicine
Why do people become addicted to opioids in the first place?
It’s a question that’s crossed many minds. While there are no doubt multiple factors at play, the real cause of addiction may have to do less with chemicals in a drug and more with our state of mind.
When people are struggling with depression, anxiety, or loneliness they are looking for relief. Whether through excessive eating or prescription pills, or even heroin, people ultimately want to feel better.
For those battling opioid addiction, this can be a never-ending battle.
Cannabis is a holistic medicine for the mind, body, and soul. Helping people find a sense of meaning and connection within their lives, cannabis is a doorway to all sorts of positive things.. This plant was brought to us for a reason, and it’s such a comprehensive medicine, capable of treating physical and mental ailments.
Recovering from addiction is a lifelong process. As a society, we’ve done very little to help people overcome their addictions. In fact, we’ve isolated them, put them in jails, and prescribed them even more prescription pills.
It is time to stop the insanity.
Cannabis is an ancient healer. While it may not be the answer for everyone, there is no reason people should be denied this medicine. Cannabis is complex but it is not dangerous.
A study published in 2014 found that the legalization of cannabis had a direct impact on the number of opiate deaths. In fact, between 1999 and 2010, states that had permitted medical cannabis had 25% fewer deaths from opioids than states without a program.
People facing opiate addiction need another option. An option that is life enhancing rather than life diminishing. Cannabis is key to ending the opiate epidemic. Not another life should be lost. People have the right to benefit from this plant.
If you agree, please share this article far and wide and spread the good news about this amazing plant. And if you'd like to learn more about how to use cannabis as a treatment for addiction, check out this online class: "Using Cannabis To Break Addictive Behaviors & Treat Substance Dependence"
Do you think people should be allowed to use cannabis for addiction treatment?