Opioid addiction has wreaked havoc on countless communities across the country. In 2020, there were 93,000 deaths from opioid overdoses. Treating opioid addiction is fraught with challenges and difficulties. The National Drug Intelligence Center states that OxyContin withdrawal can cause uncomfortable and often dangerous symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and an inability to sleep.
“Both cannabis and CBD … can be very beneficial to patients while detoxing,” anesthesiologist and pain medicine physician Anand Dugar, MD, told WebMD. “In addition, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania specifically allow patients with an opiate disorder to become medical cannabis patients because of the benefit of medical cannabis in helping these patients wean off opiates.”
Government officials and medical experts are desperately trying to get ahead of the crisis. Fortunately, the Biden administration included marijuana research on his recent infrastructure bill. One study has shown evidence of marijuana being an effective treatment for overcoming withdrawal symptoms. Reducing cravings can not only make detox more tolerable but can also decrease the chances of relapse. A study from a New Mexico doctor concluded that marijuana helped approximately 25% of patients to overcome opioids.
“Although further research is needed … medical cannabis may dampen the behaviors that contribute to relapse,” physician and Cannalogue CEO Mohan Cooray, MD, FRCPC, told WebMD.
The gold standard of epidemiologic studies is randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trials. This type of study is the most significant gap in current cannabis studies.
These studies divide human participants into two groups: The control group receives a placebo. In contrast, the experimental group gets the medication. Participants do not know which group they are in. This separation helps researchers establish the effectiveness of tested drugs as they track each group.
Marijuana isn’t the cure-all panacea many are hoping for. The Mayo Clinic notes potential problems with lighting up a zigzag include cognitive impairment, headaches, dry mouth, dry eyes, drowsiness and fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and increased heart rate.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that early marijuana studies show promise, but further study is required to find effective methods for treating opioid addiction and saving lives.