Can Cannabis Crush Opioid Addiction?

The human quest to conquer pain is ancient, and both opium and cannabis have been used since antiquity for pain relief.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine 2017 report, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research concluded:

One of the therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids is to treat chronic pain in adults.  The committee found evidence to support that patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.  For adults with multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms, there was substantial evidence that short-term use of certain “oral cannabinoids” – man-made, cannabinoid-based medications that are orally ingested – improved their reported symptoms.3

Multiple studies published between 2014 – 2019 have examined the evidence for reduced use of opioids in states that have legalized medical marijuana and several states that have also legalized adult use. A recent Canadian study, “Medical cannabis patterns of use and substitution for opioids & other pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances; results from a cross-sectional survey of authorized patients” by Philippe Lucas, Eric P. Baron & Nick Jikomes suggests that “increased regulated access to medical and recreational cannabis can result in a reduction in the use of and subsequent harms associated with opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.”4

Brandon Bailey, a cannabis doctor in Oklahoma, looking back at his first year of practice noted that among vets with PTSD there was a “…75% reduction in Benzodiazepine use and an 85% reduction in Opiate use. And possibly most importantly, an almost 65% reduction in clinical presentations or hospitalizations due to mental health conditions in patients treating with medical cannabis. With our national suicide rate among veterans at an all-time high, this statistic means lives are being saved, simply by allowing our veterans to have access to medical cannabis.”5

Olga Khazan compared the risk of addiction for nicotine (32%), heroin (23%), cocaine (17%), alcohol (15%) and marijuana (9%) in an article for The Atlantic.6

With over 42,000 deaths attributed to opioid overdoses in 2016, the decision to use cannabis instead of opioids should be made by patients and their doctors, and we encourage North Carolina’s General Assembly to enact a patient-centric medical cannabis program in the 2020 short session.7,8

To take immediate action after you finish reading (Footnotes follow this):

  1. Email the content to your NC Representative and Senator to help educate them about cannabis, opioids and harm reduction. (To get started, you can paste this into your email by way of introduction, then add your reasons for supporting medical cannabis):

Dear Represenative___/Senator___, I am a constituent of yours. Cannabis access is a very important issue for me, for a variety of reasons.  I would like to share some information that is not talked about enough and I am interested to learn your thoughts and to see if you have any questions.  You can reach me by email or phone. Thank you for your service to those in our district.

Warm Regards,

[full name], [address], [phone #]

       2. Review the slides from our webinar about working with your Reps. 

       3. In case you missed it, here’s the link to the 12/5/19 Board Chat 

As always:

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