It’s no secret that Canada – and many other nations around the world – is in the midst of an opioid crisis that has steadily worsened over the years. Abuse of prescription medicines and the proliferation of incredibly strong recreational drugs has resulted in the death or hospitalization of thousands of Canadians.
The Opioid Crisis
In Canada, the number of people hospitalized due to opioid poisoning rose by more than 30 percent between 2007/8 and 2014/15, according to figures collated by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Today, around 13 people are hospitalized for opioid-related issues every single day.
The good news is that awareness of the issue is growing. Thanks, at least in part, to widespread media coverage and renewed efforts by the government to try and solve the crisis, more people than ever are conscious of the side effects and potentially deadly consequences of long term opioid use. This has prompted many patients to explore alternative treatment options such as medical cannabis, which has been proven to be very effective at fighting pain while posing few side effects to users. Read on for more insight into how medical cannabis could help solve the global opioid crisis.
What’s Fueling the Opioid Crisis?
As noted, opioid use and abuse has skyrocketed over the years. In 2016, 2,458 Canadians lost their lives to opioids, according to Statistics Canada. In 2017, this number is expected to exceed 4,000. What’s behind this worrying trend?
The illicit drug industry is at least partially responsible. The supply and availability of fentanyl, an opioid roughly 75 times stronger than morphine, has continued to rise and may account for more than half of all opioid-related deaths. However, prescription drugs must also bear some of the blame. The number of opioid prescriptions issued increased from 20.2 million in 2012 to 21.5 million in 2016, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. This is a big concern given that patients with legitimate prescriptions account for about 6 in 10 opioid-related deaths.
How Medical Cannabis Could Help
While there are many components that have gone into resolving the opioid crisis – harm reduction initiatives, abuse prevention and stricter enforcement, to name but three – it’s possible that medical cannabis may prove to be the missing piece to the puzzle.
Well, the most common ailment opioids are prescribed for is moderate to severe pain, and it just so happens that there’s extensive evidence showing that cannabis can be just as effective – if not more so – as opioids at reducing pain. THC and CBD (two medically potent cannabinoids found in medical cannabis) work in synergy to fight pain, reduce inflammation and improve overall quality of life. Simply put, for most people, medical cannabis does the same job as opioids without all the associated risks.
Research indicates this could be critical in resolving the opioid crisis. For example, in a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, investigators studied the rate of opioid overdoses in the United States between 1999 and 2010. They found that the 13 states which allowed for the prescription and use of medical cannabis saw the opioid overdose mortality rate drop by 24.8 percent after the laws were were put into place, compared with states where medical cannabis was illegal.
Medical cannabis could not only be a safe alternative to opioids but may actively play a role in reducing opioid addiction. In a study by The University of New Mexico, researchers studied opioid-using chronic-pain patients who enrolled in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. After the 21-month observation period, researchers found that those who used medical cannabis were five times more likely to reduce their daily prescription opioid dosages.
It’s clear that medical cannabis is far from a gateway drug. If anything, it’s helping users reduce their dependency on more addictive and destructive substances.
Treat Sleep Issues with Cannabis
Canabo Medical Inc. has identified a few strains of cannabis that work well for treating sleep issues. The company has recently launched an online self-referral program for individuals with sleep issues.
Each patient is unique and should be assessed by one of Canabo’s Cannabinoid Specialists to get the correct strains and amount of cannabis.
By: Jareth Trigwell