The opioid epidemic in North America is a growing public health crisis, causing devastating effects on communities across Canada and the U.S.
What’s being done to counter this deadly health crisis? Learn why more doctors and patients are turning to medical cannabis.
The Problem with Opioids
Many patients taking opioids for pain relief are trapped in a vicious cycle. Doctors prescribe patients opioids for pain relief, but then often need to prescribe more medication to deal with the negative side effects these opioids cause.
In fact, opioids rarely help chronic pain sufferers. While they may provide some immediate relief, the side effects soon take over. And when patients develop a tolerance to opioids, they must continually increase their dosage to get relief. The cycle continues.
But quitting cold turkey isn’t exactly an option for patients, as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and even deadly.
Are there any other options?
Medical Cannabis Might Help Alleviate the Epidemic
When used in the right way, medical cannabis might help counter the opioid crisis.
Studies suggest it’s a much safer solution that’s far less addictive and presents fewer negative side effects. The International Journal of Drug Policy released a study in 2017 that explored the use of medical cannabis as a substitute for many prescription drugs, including opioids. Many patients involved reported the natural substance to be highly effective.
Medical marijuana can be used as an adjunct treatment for patients currently taking opioids. Studies suggest it can help patients maintain a lower dose of opioids, while still getting pain relief.
It may also be used to treat opioid addiction. Medical cannabis may be able to reduce withdrawal symptoms and increase the effectiveness of replacement therapy like methadone or suboxone. The CBD in cannabis may help patients reduce opioid cravings by interacting with the brain’s serotonin system, which plays a role in addiction.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for pain management�”that’s exactly why medical cannabis has been identified as potentially more effective than opioids to treat chronic pain. Since there’s such a variety of medical cannabis strains, it’s easier to find a solution to fit different patients’ unique needs.
Giving Patients Their Lives Back
Many patients addicted to opioids feel medical cannabis helped them get their lives back. More and more, patients are turning to medical cannabis as a means to get off opioids.
As a potentially safer and more effective pain treatment option, it may help patients feel more in control of their symptoms and improves their quality of life.
When they receive treatment tailored to their individual needs, patients can better manage their pain and get back to the activities they love doing. Patients may require low doses of cannabis to find relief, and many strains claim to help improve mental clarity.
To counter the opioid crisis, all health practitioners should grasp the potential of medical cannabis. But since it’s has been treated as an illicit drug, doctors and researchers have been unable to perform clinical trials.
Fortunately, as recreational cannabis will be legal in Canada no later than July 2018, the federal government is funding several research projects to better understand the impacts of medical cannabis on the body and mind. Researchers will gain the opportunity to further investigate medical cannabis as a safer and more effective alternative to opioids.