Marijuana As Opiate Deterrent?

Editor’s note:

Here is a section about Cannabis’ effect on opioid dependence from 2009 that has now been removed from the Medical Cannabis article on Wikipedia. The only mention of “opioids” in presently is: “the use [of medical cannabis  for pain] appears safer than that of opioids.”

Opioid dependence

Injections of THC eliminate dependence on opiates in stressed rats, according to a research team at the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System (France) in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Deprived of their mothers at birth, rats become hypersensitive to the rewarding effect of morphine and heroin (substances belonging to the opiate family), and rapidly become dependent. When these rats were administered THC, they no longer developed typical morphine-dependent behavior. In the striatum, a region of the brain involved in drug dependence, the production of endogenous enkephalins was restored under THC, whereas it diminished in rats stressed from birth which had not received THC. Researchers believe the findings could lead to therapeutic alternatives to existing substitution treatments.[1][2]

In humans, drug treatment subjects who use cannabis intermittently are found to be more likely to adhere to treatment for opioid dependence.[3] Historically, similar findings were reported by Clendinning, who in 1843 utilized cannabis substitution for the treatment of alcoholism and opium addiction[4] and Birch, in 1889, who reported success in treating opiate and chloral addiction with cannabis.[5]


From The Fix

Marijuana As Opiate Deterrent?

*First of all, I would just like to say that I am reporting what I have found on this topic and sharing my thoughts with you from a neutral point of view. I am not pro-legalize marijuana or against. If anything, I come to you as a man in recovery a little skeptical about the claims that I read which caused me to investigate this further. With that being said, let’s begin.

I don’t know about you all, but when I first saw the words “States that legalized Medical Marijuana had 25% fewer opioid-related deaths!” by the company Weedsmap. I chuckled to myself and said now that’s a brilliant marketing strategy. Then reminded myself a drug, is a drug, is a drug like I have had pounded into my brain through my many years at and in recovery and went about my day.

I have to admit though that phrase has been kicking around in the back of my head for three days now. So tonight I thought I might do a little research of my own. Holy smokes seems appropriate right about now because there is just from my searching over some 170 articles out there on the topic and a few bonafide studies that have been conducted that blew me right out of the water here.

Let’s start with challenging my current recovery beliefs with this new information and see if by doing so it does not cause you to do the same. So what if a drug, is a drug, is a drug, but one of those drugs is showing amazing medical benefits. And is lowering the deaths of those addicted to opiates by some 25% just to scratch the surface. Has been legalized in several states, and has shown to not increase drug use any, but some may say through these findings helps to reduce it. Would that drug then become an acceptable form of Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT)?

Would we be able to sit in our chosen recovery support meetings and gladly honor someone celebrating their clean time if they are smoking medical marijuana as an ORT? Good question huh? At first, I was immediately on the defensive as my years of being drilled in the art of recovery came to the forefront of my mind to defend their hard-earned beliefs. But then as the days passed by my mind began to open and I have been allowed to think on the subject objectively and without prejudice.

Let me share with you a few of the facts that I have found regarding the claim I saw on the billboard that day, and let you come up with your own conclusion. First, I found a study that was conducted by professionals from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Medical Center.

Their findings although not earth-shattering, but promising, stated in a nutshell that they believe if medical marijuana were made widely available to treat pain that it is possible to see a drop in the percentage of opioid-related deaths.

For one reason, opiate prescriptions would be widely replaced with medical marijuana in some form. Whether the traditional, or topical, edible or in liquid, And to date, as far as my research has found. There has not been one overdose-related death linked to marijuana in any form.

Secondly, Yuyan Shi authored the findings from a University of San Diego study which found that in states with legalized medical marijuana the number of people being hospitalized for opioid addiction or dependence dropped on average 23%. While the number of opiate-related overdoses treated in those states Hospital Emergency Rooms dropped on average 13%. There is an article to back up all my findings here.

Dr. Esther Choo from the Oregon Health and Science University says, “It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity.” “Could increased liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution?” It seems plausible she was quoted as saying. She closed with “there is still much we need to understand about the mechanisms through which marijuana policy may affect opioid use and harms.”

Any thoughts yet? I have a couple, now that I have found what I read on the billboard to be a little misleading, but there is definitely some truth to their claims. I believe that we are fighting one of the fiercest enemies the United States of America has ever had to contend with in the OpiodeEpedemic. I believe that it is going to take some either unconventional or maybe even unheard of therapy’s added to the ones we are currently using to become victorious in this war.

In 2015 the Center for Disease Control estimates that we lost over 33,000 people to opiate-related deaths. I did the simple math that works out to 90.41 deaths a day! This should not be so, and if by allowing people to use marijuana to relieve pain vs taking opiates works to lower that number even by 1. Then I will gladly honor all of those folks clean time in recovery if that is helping them, Will You?

*Jama Internal Medicine full study report on these findings if you care to inquire.

About the Author: Marc is a 48-year-old Author, Speaker, and Soldier in a war to loosen the grasp that Substance Abuse has on our society. He is a Father, Son, and friend to all those seeking refuge from this incorrigible disease. Marc resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where he enjoys, writing, hiking, and kicking the disease of addiction in the teeth, every chance he gets. As Marc always likes to say, “be blessed, my friends!”

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