Studies have shown that states which have passed medical marijuana laws have seen a significant decrease in prescription opioid use. These studies also suggest that the use of medical marijuana in place of opioids will not only save hundreds of thousands of lives but also billions of dollars, each year.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are prescription pain killers. A few examples of these drugs are OxyContin, Vicodin and Morphine. Common side effects of opioid use include sedation, nausea & vomiting, constipation and dizziness. Severe side effects of routine opioid use include tolerance & dependence, respiratory depression and even death.
According to the CDC, approximately 115 people die from opioid addiction in the United States each day. This is almost 42,000 people each year! According to the National Institute of Health, 25% of patients that are prescribed opioids misuse them; 5% of which end up transitioning to heroin. Aside from thousands of deaths per year, the misuse of prescription opioids cost approximately $78.5 Billion This includes the cost of healthcare, treatment, lost productivity, criminal justice proceedings, etc…
What is Medical Marijuana?
“Medical marijuana” refers to the pure extracts from a whole, unprocessed marijuana plant. The incredible healing properties come from the high concentrations of Cannabidiol (CBD) as well as the high levels of medical terpenes. There are CBD receptors in almost every organ in the human body. When the CBD interacts with these receptors, we experience the therapeutic and non-psychoactive effects. CBD is well-known for it’s anti-inflammatory and neurological benefits.
Tetrahydrocannabidiol, commonly known as THC, is also found in marijuana. This is the most potent psychoactive compound in the Cannabis plant, responsible for the “high” feeling. According to Doctor Margaret Gedde, THC can be highly beneficial for those that are suffering from extreme pain. This would include patients that are prescribed opioids.
Opioids VS. Medical Marijuana
Studies have shown that marijuana users can, at times, experience a mild dependence. Unlike opioid dependence, marijuana dependence can be reversed relatively easily. This is due to the fact that marijuana dependence can be broken without having to go through the debilitating withdrawal symptoms that opioid users have to deal with.
The human body is extremely adaptable and can develop a tolerance to any drug. A negative side effect from consistent opioid use is cognitive impairment (memory loss). When a patient develops a tolerance to opioids, they will require a higher dosage to get relief from chronic pain. The problem is many physicians are reluctant to up the dosage in fear of intensifying these side effects and potential addiction.
A survey was conducted on patients who have used both opioids and medical marijuana. Results of this survey have shown that participants reported a much higher satisfaction rate from cannabis, as far as pain relief is concerned.
Medical Marijuana has already reduced the use of opioids in America and has great potential to eliminate them all together. Medical marijuana offers all of the benefits of opioids (pain relief), with much less risk of withdrawal and negative side effects.