Doctors of Natural Medicine

Using Medical Marijuana To Get Off Opioids

Using Medical Marijuana To Get Off Opioids

Since 1999, over 760,000 people have died as a result of a drug overdose, and two out of every three overdoses involved opioids. With danger and addiction being so prevalent with opioids, it’s only logical to discuss the relationship between medical marijuana and opioids.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs commonly used to treat pain. They are derived from the opium poppy plant and produce various effects.

They are often referred to as painkillers and can exist as street drugs, like heroin.

Opioids work by blocking pain signals from the brain and they also produce relaxed and happy sensations that can be highly addictive.

Common opioids include:

  • Prescriptions like Vicodin and OxyContin
  • Fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than morphine
  • Heroin

The danger of opioids comes from the tolerance users rapidly develop. As use progresses, they need more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effects. This leads to addiction and opioid use disorder. As dosages increase, breathing becomes restricted and can result in respiratory depression which can include breathing stopping altogether.

Could Medical Marijuana Replace Opioids For Pain?

Research so far indicates that medical marijuana may be able to replace opioids for pain management in some cases. A survey conducted saw 80% of patients find cannabis more effective than opioids for pain, and 92% found the side effects of cannabis more tolerable. Another study saw respondents list ‘better symptom management and ‘fewer side effects’ as reasons for switching from opioids to medical marijuana for pain management. And a San Francisco study further corroborated these findings, as they observed their participants holding similar perceptions.
What are the side effects of medical marijuana?

Is Medical Marijuana Safer Than Opioids?

A lot of uses of medical marijuana have yet to have supportive and conclusive evidence favoring them, but that is not the case here.

Medical marijuana is without a doubt safer than opioids. The chemicals and compounds in medical marijuana are hardly toxic, a person would not be able to physically consume the amount of cannabis in a traditional method needed to overdose.

However, as we discussed earlier, almost 800,000 people have died from drug overdoses since 1999, with two-thirds of those deaths involving opioids. 

Given these facts, we can conclusively state that medical marijuana IS safer than opioids as it carries no risk of overdose.

Additionally, while addiction and use disorder is a risk with marijuana usage, it is not the same kind of addiction. Opioids are what’s known as physically addictive, meaning it causes withdrawal and a host of unpleasant symptoms. Cannabis is psychologically addictive, so the addiction typically isn’t as severe nor does it carry the same physical symptoms.

However, it should be noted that along with many uses of medical marijuana, future research is needed to gauge long-term feasibility as a substitute for opioids.

Consult Your Doctor

If you experience chronic pain and wish to find out more about medical marijuana as a potential treatment, book an appointment to speak with one of our medical professionals today!

To learn more about medical marijuana, check out The Pros And Cons Of Marijuana For Medical Use.

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