Opioid addiction remains to be a leading medical care crisis that the US currently faces. This problem costs the United States economy approximately $500,000,000,000 per year and kills around 100 individuals every day – more than traffic accidents or gun violence.
It forms the primary point of focus of nearly every public health and public policy debate in several cities across the US.
Research shows that emergency hospital visits because of opioid overdose keep increasing every day. The shocking news to note is that marijuana, a federally illegal drug, seems to be a safe and effective solution to this issue.
Therefore, it’s time for concerned parents, law enforcement officers, physicians, and policymakers to look beyond several years of cannabis stigma. It is the right time to acknowledge the marijuana evidence and recommend publically what this drug can do: minimize the opioid epidemic.
There are a myriad of debates going on how the US can address the opioid crisis. The right way to follow in this case is to treat and stop opioids addiction, minimize and do away with opioid overdoses, and create lasting strategies to ensure the 100 million US residents struggling with chronic pain get relief.
With marijuana, it will become easy to achieve all these goals. But how?
Why Marijuana Is A Perfect Alternative To Opioids
Using cannabis as a pain reliever started thousands of years ago. It even found itself in the earliest Chinese pharmacopeia to offer pain-relieving and several other services.
Besides this, the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians also used marijuana for pain-relieving purposes. Moreover, cannabis fell under the category of the US’s mainstream medicines all around the 1800s.
Cannabis features unique molecules within its trichomes called cannabinoids that play a pivotal role in offering pain relieving services. Cannabinoid receptors form one of the critical parts of the brain’s pain refining regions. Animal studies show that cannabinoids produce quality pain relief when administered right to these brain regions.
Opioid receptors also appear in these brain’s pain refining regions. Therefore, opioids and marijuana produce almost similar reactions inside the brains in the pain-relieving process. However, the cannabis molecules feature anti-inflammatory properties in opioids, and inflammation forms a significant part of the pain.
Opioids play a vital role in lessening the body pain sensation. On the other hand, cannabis can enhance the body’s ability to deal effectively with pain, improving an individual function in day-to-day life.
Moreover, opioids are more addictive than cannabis and have more undesirable side effects than cannabis. Besides this, it’s easier to tolerate cannabis than opioids, and it’s much safer for anyone who needs to take it for a long time.
Furthermore, it’s virtually impossible to experience a fatal cannabis overdose. However, with opioids, accidental overdose happens from time to time, even when consuming the drugs per the doctors’ orders.
Comparing the US States That Have/Not Legalized Marijuana
Research shows that US states with medical marijuana laws have significantly lower opioid prescription cases. As per Hefei Wen, States that shifted from medical marijuana use only to recreational marijuana use, such as Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, recorded further opioid prescription reductions.
Colorado and Oregon recorded a 9% and 10% opioid prescription reduction, respectively. This figure was a smaller decrease but a significant one.
California took the position as the first US state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since this year, several US states have accepted some legalized marijuana. As per Bradford, each of these states includes chronic pain indirectly/directly in the legalized cannabis list.
Research shows that medical marijuana laws have a significant effect on opioid prescriptions. As per Wen, the US States that accepted recreational marijuana use recorded a 6.38% opioid prescription increase than those US States that approved only medical marijuana.
The procurement technique is another thing that has a significant effect on opioid prescriptions. The US States that approved medical marijuana dispensaries restricted the shops that can sell cannabis.
These States recorded 3,742,000 opioid prescription reductions in one year, while those permitted only marijuana home cultivation recorded 1,792,000 option prescription reductions within one year.
Treating/Preventing Opioid Addiction And Deterioration/Relapse
Withdrawing from Opioid falls under the most dreadful experiences one can endure. This experience explains why relapse/deterioration is a prevalent issue.
It has remained the fact that cannabinoids decrease opioid withdrawal symptoms experienced in animals for several years. Recently, opioid addiction and recovery experts released a report that matched well with these findings. From this report, marijuana minimizes opioid withdrawal symptoms and opioid cravings.
Anxiety or negative mood falls under the category of the most significant activators for drug relapse. Besides this, cannabis remains to be the euphoria producer and optimistic mood promoters.
Therefore, cannabis can translate into fewer relapse triggers and fewer heightened anxiety days. Even cannabidiol can put a stop to anxiety that causes relapse.
As per the opioid therapy hallmark, one must increase the opioid dosage for a specific time to work as required. The brain and the human body become tolerant to opioids quickly, forcing each patient to increase opioid consumption to keep enjoying the pain-relieving service.
Increased opioid consumption and tolerance driven by opioids contribute a lot to opioid abuse.
Opioids provide powerful pain relief that doesn’t have an alternative. However, cannabis can enhance this pain relief when used hand-in-hand with opioids. When patients use cannabis, it means they will need less opioid consumption to relieve pain.
Research shows that patients can minimize the daily opioid dose by half if they decide to use cannabis supplements.
Besides this, research shows that marijuana can put a stop to opioid tolerance development. If you use marijuana before opioid exposure, you can eliminate opioid overdose and opioid abuse risk.
Cannabis provides first-line chronic pain treatment due to its ability to prevent opioid tolerance development and relieve pain when used with opioids. One should mostly use cannabis as an initial treatment option and don’t consider it an alternative.
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