A New Study Shows Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Prescriptions

A New Study Shows Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Prescriptions

A study conducted by researchers in Philadelphia shows that medical marijuana can potentially reduce opioid prescription for patients with chronic Osteoarthritis. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University and the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute concluded that medical cannabis is a viable alternative to opioids for chronic pain conditions. 

Although the use of opioids slightly improves the treatment of chronic pain, the side effects have proven to be exceedingly adverse. Despite the increased awareness about the impact of the drug, opioid use for Osteoarthritis increased by roughly 3% between 2007 and 2014. 

Approximately 50,000 people in the United States perished from opioid-related overdoses in 2019. The misuse of opioids, as well as their addiction, is a grievous national crisis. Figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the entire “economic weight” of prescription opioid misuse is roughly $78.5 billion a year. The figure also includes the addiction treatment, cost of healthcare, lost productivity, and criminal justice involvement. 

The opioid crisis erupted in the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical fraternity that patients wouldn’t become dependent on prescription opioid pain relievers. Unfortunately, medical practitioners began prescribing them at a greater rate. What followed was a catastrophe – there was a widespread diversion and misuse of opioid medication before it became plain that the drug indeed possed addictive qualities. 

Consequently, the cases of opioid overdose began skyrocketing. Sadly, more than 47,000 Americans died due to opioid overdose in 2017. In the same year, almost 1.7 million people in the U.S suffered from substance use disorder resulting from opioid-related pain relievers. 

For many years, efforts to compensate the victims directly or indirectly affected by the opioid epidemic remained futile. This was because companies that fueled the epidemic seemed impervious to legal reproach. Nevertheless, several companies have been found culpable for causing the opioid epidemic due to mounting pressure. Recently, a New York Jury found Teva Pharmaceutical guilty of playing a role in the opioid crisis. 

Due to the adverse effect of opioids, researchers are looking for a suitable alternative to the drug. Although preliminary research found medical marijuana to be a potentially viable solution to tackling the opioid crisis, much research still needs to be done. For the longest time, cannabis laws have hampered research and development in the sector. 

Nevertheless, recent moves by the Biden Administration to include cannabis research in the infrastructure bill will undoubtedly give the cannabis industry a considerable boost. It will help uncover the full potential of medical marijuana in reducing opioid prescriptions. Current research shows that medical marijuana can ease withdrawal symptoms. 

People who are addicted to opioids undergo adverse withdrawal symptoms. This usually includes nausea, anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia. The long process of quitting the drug also discourages users from going through the process altogether. Evidence from different studies shows that medical cannabis can indeed treat the withdrawal symptoms of opioids. Although more research needs to be done, testimonials from multiple individuals battling opioid addiction have confirmed the reduced withdrawal symptoms.   

Additionally, medical cannabis can also reduce or even eliminate opioid cravings. Since using opioids usually leaves a person with a high dependency on the drug, cutting its use is worthwhile. A study on the correlation between cannabis and the pharmacological treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) found the following: subjects who used cannabis daily were less likely to experience opioid cravings compared to those who use it occasionally. Still, further examination is required with the implementation of tailored approaches.  

Researchers at the Oregon State University published their findings which revealed that hemp cannabinoids have proven to be effective at preventing COVID 19 infection. The results show that there is also a high possibility that medical marijuana could potentially treat opioid-related cases. 

Population studies indicate that the legalization of medical marijuana directly correlates with reduced opioid-related hospitalization, decreased opioid prescription, and reduced mortality rate caused by opioid overdose. Nevertheless, there’s still insufficient evidence supporting medical cannabis as a suitable alternative to opioids. The inclusion of cannabis research in the infrastructure bill will aid in shading more light on the potentiality of medical marijuana in tackling the opioid crisis.  

The medicinal properties of cannabis have prompted numerous pharmaceutical giants to plunge themselves into the marijuana sector. Considering that various legislative reforms are currently happening, the industry is growing at a much faster pace. In 2019, cannabis companies raised approximately $116 billion. The figure also includes sales from medical marijuana products and wholesale smoking accessories

Even though marijuana was a prohibited substance decades ago, things seem to be changing. Presently, more than half of Americans believe that cannabis should be legalized. Discoveries about the substances have caused shifts in political policies. Considering the vast reforms happening in numerous states, many people are hopeful that the same changes will occur in the federal government.

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