The opioid epidemic is ravaging North America. More people across different ages and backgrounds die from opioids every year than from car accidents.
The United States is not spared as it has seen a dramatic rise in opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction over the past 20 years. In response to these alarming trends, the government has tightened restrictions on opioid prescriptions; this may be appropriate for prescription opioids, but what about affordable alternatives such as Medical Cannabis? Perhaps it is a potential solution: Cannabis is an effective pain reliever with none of the deadly side effects of opioids.
Compare Cannabis and Opioids by examining their efficacy in managing chronic pain related to neuropathy. Specifically, ask: What are the most common side effects of each?
To many in the medical community, the thought of utilizing cannabis to combat the opioid crisis may sound contradictory. “Aren’t we just replacing one drug with another?” and “Doesn’t Cannabis have its own sets of hazards, like addiction, dependency, and other health concerns?” some healthcare practitioners wonder.
Medical Cannabis is a contentious topic, and many knowledgeable, sensible people have expressed their reservations. Others see cannabis research as an open and exciting field of discovery. They have prayed and waited for this day to see cannabis become the safer option for chronic pain patients.
A Quick Fact on Cannabis Versus Opioids: What are they?
Cannabis is a plant that contains hundreds of active compounds, called cannabinoids, which interact with receptors throughout the body. The endocannabinoid system regulates mood, appetite, sleep, memory, immune response, pain perception, and fertility.
Besides THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, there are also dozens of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN). CBD has antiemetic properties, while CBN is used as a sedative.
Opioids are synthetic chemicals derived from opium, a resin secreted by seedpods of Papaver somniferum plants, native to Central Asia. They include morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, propoxyphene, methadone, fentanyl, etc. These drugs are highly addictive and can cause respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, and even death.
Opioids are often prescribed for cancer patients who suffer severe pain during chemotherapy. But if the person takes too much of them, their breathing becomes shallow, causing life-threatening complications.
Can Cannabis Ease the Opioid Epidemic?
Cannabis is often looked at as a gateway drug to more harmful substances, but cannabis is being used as an alternative to opioids in states where it is legal. A study published in the Journal of Pain found that out of 1,300 chronic pain patients, those who used cannabis reported a 64 percent reduction in opioid use.
Evidence of Efficacy as a Painkiller: Cannabis vs. Opioids
The opioid epidemic has been making national headlines for years, with overdose deaths reaching record levels in the United States. While prescription opioids are responsible for many of these fatalities, researchers have reported cannabis to be effective at reducing pain.
According to the Cannabis Policy Project, over 5.4 million state-legal medicinal Cannabis patients are registered in the United States and its territories; most people have resorted to cannabis to relieve their pain. In Colorado, for example, over 89 percent of the state’s more than 75,000 medical Cannabis patients suffer from severe pain.
Cannabis has been linked to pain alleviation in several studies; of the over 40 randomized controlled trials that have evaluated whether cannabis and its chemical constituents, termed cannabinoids, decrease chronic pain, none found otherwise.
While several researchers have demonstrated the efficacy of cannabis as an alternative treatment for chronic pain, the same cannot be said of opioids as there is minimal evidence that opioids are useful in treating chronic pain, according to many meta-analyses.
Of course, we all know of individuals who have experienced great pain reduction and improved function due to continuous opioid medication. However, we know that for every one of these patients, there are many more who are not benefited or damaged by opioids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 70000 Americans died in 2019, with 71% from an unintended overdose of prescription opioids, making it the leading cause of death among young people in several states.
Cannabis as an Addiction Treatment
Cannabis is now seen as a potential addiction treatment and an opioid replacement. In states where cannabis is legal, opioid overdose deaths have decreased by 25%; this is likely due to cannabis’s ability to help relieve chronic pain, often the underlying cause of opioid addiction. Cannabis can help wean people off of opioids, as it does not produce the same addictive effects.
Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Cannabis over Opioids
Most regulatory authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration, assess proposed remedies based on benefit against risk at individual and public health levels. When comparing the benefits of opioids against cannabis for chronic pain, a tie is the least disputed conclusion.
Cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain and various other medical conditions. A growing number of people are now using medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids, which can be addictive and have deadly side effects. Medical Cannabis is non-addictive and does not cause respiratory failure, overdose deaths, or other serious problems associated with prescription opioids.
The benefits of cannabis over opioids are more evident as research on the plant continues. While opioids effectively reduce pain, they also carry the risk of addiction and overdose. Cannabis, on the other hand, is an effective pain reliever with few side effects. Additionally, cannabis can help reduce opioid addiction and overdose rates.
You’ve heard about the benefits of cannabis over opioids, but you’re not sure if it’s worth the switch. There’s so much conflicting information out there it’s hard to know who to trust.
Medical Cannabis Doctors are here to help. We are a team of doctors and health professionals dedicated to helping people find relief from chronic pain through cannabis. We believe that cannabis is a safe and effective alternative to opioids.
In our commitment to educating the public about its benefits, we have carefully selected and cataloged strains that have produced the best results as far as pain therapy is concerned.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and see how cannabis can help you live a healthier, happier life!