Could Marijuana Replace the Need For Opiates?

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Cannabis has long been shown to be a remedy for a wide variety of ailments. Research on cannabis has also been at the forefront of the medicinal world for quite some time now. With a large amount of studies being conducted in the marijuana industry, the potential to replace other, more harsh drugs seems to be quite high.

One of the drugs that marijuana has the potential to work alongside if not fully replace is the category of drugs known as opiates. Opiates have long been a trusted drug in the medical industry for its potential to treat high amounts of pain and the conditions that come with certain ailments. One of the main issues with opiate based drugs is the fact that they lead to a massive potential for addiction in a large amount of the cases. The addiction that comes with opiates also leads to a higher tolerance for the medicine. Because of this, often times opioids stop working for patients after only a short period of time. Although opioids are often a great option for pain, it seems to many that the downsides outweigh the good by a large amount.

Mark S. Wallace, MD, a professor of clinical anesthesiology at the University of California, San Diego stated that he is working to have trials happen with using marijuana to treat pain as opposed to opiates. Wallace states that he first starts by making sure that the patient is not content with the treatment they are getting, and that this is the last option. He stated that “Our approach in recommending medical cannabis for pain is that patients have failed to respond to conservative therapies first. However, this should be considered before chronic opioids.” Wallace also states that patients who are already being treated with opiate based medicines need to be tapered off of the substance to try and avoid some of the symptoms that come from withdrawal from the medicine. He also states that he never allows a patient to use both cannabis and opioids at the same time.

The potential for cannabis to replace the use of opioids is especially high in younger patients and specifically children. Although the thought of giving cannabis to children may at first seem like a bad idea, new drugs are being produced that are able to give all of the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects. The component of marijuana that does this is known as CBD or cannabidiol. Many parents are tired of giving their kids medicine that simply knocks them out and essentially makes them not themselves. With opiates for painkilling, often patients will remain very distant, and when they aren’t on the drug they face the symptoms of withdrawal, which can make spending time with them very difficult.

Wallace stated that tapering off patients from opioids may be difficult at first, but the amount of pain relief they will get from using cannabis as an alternative is much greater. In the long run, it does seem like cannabis is the best alternative. He stated that in some cases he will introduce cannabis and “what I’ve seen is some patients will get to as much as an 80% reduction in their opioids with cannabis. I look at that as a success and will let them continue on cannabis as long as they can keep the opioid use down.” This amount is extremely promising as most prescription drugs don’t really do a great job at mitigating pain. The potential for marijuana is extremely large, and as long as research continues to be done in the sector, it seems like the future of cannabis will remain just as bright as its medical potential.

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