North America has been plagued with the opioid epidemic. Opiates are a class of drug derived from opium. They are primarily used as analgesics (pain killers) and are considered highly addictive with a multitude dangerous side effects and health risks, including death. According to the center for disease control (CDC), over 33,000 deaths were attributed to opioids in 2015 and over 1000 people are treated each day for opioid related illness. Could cannabis be part of the solution? Quite possibly.
Cannabinoids found in cannabis work similarly to opioids when modulating pain. They both produce analgesia (pain relief) by blocking the release of pain propagating neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord with one major difference. Cannabinoid receptors are not present in the area of our brain responsible for respiration. Opiates are Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. When abused or misused, opiates can slow down, or even stop heartbeat and respiration. There are zero recorded deaths due to cannabis overdose. Medical Cannabis provides an outlet for opioid replacement therapy as a non-lethal, all natural, alternative for pain relief.
Studies show that states where medical cannabis is legal have a reduced opioid overdose mortality rate. Medical cannabis laws were associated with an average 24.8% reduction of opioid overdose deaths when compared to states without laws (Bachhuber, Marcus et al. JAMA Internal Medicine). This number generally improved year over year. We should also note that a recent analysis of Medicare Part D enrollees in states where medical cannabis is legal have reported a significant drop in prescriptions for traditional pain medications (Bradford and Bradford et al. Health Affairs). Pain relief is one of the most common reasons people turn to medical cannabis. Recent studies suggest that patients are replacing opiates with cannabis to treat their chronic pain. This could be the first step in taking control of the opiate epidemic that has taken over our country.
We encourage you to explore your options and consult with a physician to determine if cannabis therapy is right for you. We are available Monday – Friday to answer any questions you may have 727-440-7786.
This article is intended for informational purposes. Please do not alter or stop any medical treatment plan without consulting a physician.