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Medical Marijuana versus Opioid Epidemic

A large number of Canadians and Americans succumb to opioid epidemic every day. About 91 Americans die daily because of opioid-linked drug overdoses. There has been an increase of use and abuse of opioid drugs, and in 2016, Canada reported about 2,400 opioid-linked deaths. Following opioid-related deaths, it is clear that the use of opioids for pain management can lead to an addiction that can pose more damage on the use of the treatment.

The drug’s harmful effects outweigh its benefits. Therefore, many interventions, like pharmaceuticals therapies have come to find a panacea for overdose prevention. However, embracing of pharmaceutical interventions like antibiotics and buprenorphine may lead to risky drug interaction and addiction. For this reason, marijuana (cannabis sativa) is considered an additional remedy for opioid epidemic because of its safety and efficiency.

It is claimed to be a suitable cure for managing opioid-linked addictions as well as combating chronic pain. Nowadays, many people grow their cannabis sativa, and if you are interested, get feminized marijuana seeds and grow them in your garden, terrace, or rooftop.

Now, let’s discuss more on medical marijuana and the opioid epidemic.

Pain management

Both medical marijuana and opioids are known to manage pain. Many individuals registering for the New York medical marijuana program have chronic/severe pain as their primary condition. This is as per the program’s 2018 report. Medical marijuana is used as an alternative for their pain management when opioids are not available.

Arguments supporting medical marijuana say that it can help fight the opioid epidemic as it gives doctors an option to opioid drugs when treating pain. There are claims that states in the US with legal cannabis sativa have fewer opioid-linked addiction deaths than the states with no legal cannabis sativa.

Early studies, especially 2014 study cites that at the state level; there is a correlation between medical marijuana and reduced number of overdose deaths. Therefore, the research shows that there is a reduction in addiction when patients use cannabis sativa to fight pain instead of opioid drugs. Some state lawmakers support the study and urge the state to allow cannabis to help combat the opioid epidemic.

On the contrary, a new study using the same method as well as data in 2014 study reversed the above argument. It shows that cannabis use can lead to more opioid-linked addiction deaths. A new study that utilizes the earlier data but stretches the scope of the study to consider years up to and 2017 inclusive show a 20% increase instead of 20% decrease in opioid epidemic deaths in states with legal cannabis.

Relieve cancer pain

Medical marijuana might replace high-dose opioids. Patients using opioids and are at higher risk for an opioid epidemic can use medical marijuana. However, this does not mean that cannabis sativa is the panacea to opioid addiction.

Medical marijuana can be a promising harm-reduction strategy for cancer patients who are at risk of opioid overdoses as this can lead to adverse consequences. Patients struggling with increased pain because of opioids, patients who are at risk for unintentional overdose, including those taking benzodiazepines, and patients fighting disruptive sleep apnea also benefit from harm-reducing medical marijuana.

Replacing opioids drugs with marijuana in such cases might reduce deaths because it is not easy, if not impossible, for one to overdose marijuana. Therefore, patients on riskily high opioids doses for pain might have a better result if they successfully use medical marijuana instead of opioids. Fortunately, you can take medical marijuana in the form of edibles or other infused foods.

Medical marijuana and opioid addictions

Apart from reducing opioid overdose deaths, medical marijuana has many therapeutic uses. Cannabis compounds like CBD can help with anxiety, a common condition to opioid addicts. CBD does not pose side effects to the user and has a low probability of causing death. Therefore, medical cannabis might be a natural replacement for opioid prescriptions when treating pain.

CBD also can restore the patient’s neurobiological damage that is due to opioid addiction. Marijuana plant (the sativa and indica varieties) has two main active chemicals, CBD and THC. CBD impacts one’s brain without having to cause addiction. However, THC chemical provides pain relieving effects but might lead to addiction.

Research shows that marijuana plant has 400+ compounds that treat pain. Because marijuana can lead to harm, patients using it for opioid management should be cautious.

Documented evidence shows that smoking marijuana is quite safe for adult patients struggling with opioid addiction. The premise “cannabis sativa compounds are well-tolerated and cannot lead to opioid-linked overdose deaths” supports this evidence.


Medical marijuana can be a promising replacement for opioid drugs. However, policymakers should consider other ways or approaches to combating the opioid epidemic, rather than relying on cannabis sativa.

There is no one method that will be a solution to the opioid epidemic overnight. But some policies might help this fight. There should be increased access to different treatments, more harm-reducing treatments, and strategies that focus on treating root causes of problems like addiction. All these strategies will be of great help.


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