How Medical Cannabis Legalization is Driving Down Opioid Addiction and Death

How Medical Cannabis Legalization is Driving Down Opioid Addiction and Death

As the time grows nearer for medical cannabis to officially be accessible to the Pennsylvania public, many beg the question: Why try medical cannabis as opposed to prescription pills? Are you concerned about addiction? Well, there’s an easy answer: safety. Briefly, there are three families of prescription pills: central nervous system (CNS) depressants, stimulants and opioids.

It’s likely you’ve heard of the swirling opioid epidemics raging the country. You may be wondering what exactly constitutes an opioid; this would be any prescription pain reliever ranging from codeine to morphine (not to leave out heroin, obviously not a prescription). When all is said and done, opioids are highly addictive and often misused for recreational activities. On the National Institute for Drug Abuse’s website, Nora D. Valkow covers a few terrifying statistics:

  •      26.4 to 36 million people abuse opioids across the globe
  •      2.1 million people in the U.S. alone are afflicted by prescription opioid-use disorders in 2012
  •      Unintentional overdoses due to opioids have more than quadrupled in the U.S. since 1999

Sadly, it’s no longer uncommon to know someone who’s been affected by accidental opioid overdoses. The epidemic has spread far and wide from cities to rural areas, not discriminating against varying lifestyles. Here, we explore how medical cannabis can—and has—managed to decrease addiction and deaths due to prescription pain relievers. If there’s something that can be done about this devastating epidemic, it’s time to look to these potential answers and give them a wholehearted try.

Nature vs. Manufacture

Medical cannabis is a completely different treatment than prescription pills. While pills are usually always artificially manufactured, medical cannabis is whole and unprocessed; it’s completely natural, including its pure extracts used in our cannabis-derived medicines such as cannabis oils and pills alike. (In fact, this is important to look out for in medical cannabis: while AGRiMED grows 100% natural cannabis plants, there are people and companies out there who grow synthetic cannabis; this should be avoided at all costs. Synthetic cannabis is totally absent of pure cannabis’ healing components, lack the entourage effect from cannabis’s natural terpenes, and has a slew of harmful side effects on par with prescription pain relievers.)

Sure, it’s true that some opioids like morphine and codeine occur naturally in opium poppy, but it’s become common practice for pharmaceutical companies to manufacture opioids synthetically from various chemicals. And regardless—whether the opioid occurs naturally or otherwise, it doesn’t change the addictive nature of the pills.

Steer Clear: Opioids’ Addictive Properties

It’s no secret there’s an opioid epidemic sweeping its way around the country and world. The addiction rates have become a national conversation. Tragically, according to the American Journal of Transplantation, drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed 137% since the year 2000 as have opioid-related deaths at 200% in the U.S. This number, jolting as it is, can potentially be litigated by the introduction of medical cannabis. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, states that have legalized cannabis have shown a “24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate” (Bachhuber et al.) and have even shown stronger numbers over the length of years that cannabis has been legalized.

These statistics speak for themselves, but we’ll say it again: medical cannabis can, and does, decrease dependence on opioids, thus leading to lower opioid-related deaths. Most frustrating is the common myth always floating around that cannabis is a gateway drug when that is anything but true; medical cannabis has proven itself, time and time again, to be a safer, healthier alternative to harsh drugs like opioids which are inherently addictive.

Now, it’s important to understand why opioids are so addictive: they create artificial endorphins in the brain, also known as that warm, fuzzy feeling (if you want the scientific breakdown, the prescription pain pill attaches to an opioid receptor in the brain which in turn elicits that feeling of pleasure). Sure, but so do a lot of things: eating, sex, etc. However, opioids are different—over time, they actually result in changes in the brain. According to an article in Science & Practice Perspectives, “repeated exposure” to the opioid in question “alters the brain so that it functions more or less normally when the drugs are present and abnormally when they are not” (Kosten and George, 2002). This is dangerous in that it physically changes the way a person’s brain works, making them physically dependent upon the pill just to feel like they’re functioning normally. This characteristic is not present in medical cannabis which has no brain-altering effects other than that temporary “high” sometimes associated with THC which goes away after a few hours.

Enter: Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis can actually accomplish a lot of the same things that opioids can while remaining natural and healthy. Where opioids can lead to such strong addiction as depicted all over the world, cannabis is not an addictive drug (again, contrary to popular myth). Sure, if anything, cannabis is addictive in the same way candy is addictive—if you have an addictive personality, you may develop a dependence on anything that is healthy in moderation.

Regardless, medical cannabis has a variety of health benefits that opioids just can’t match. AGRiMED ensures the highest quality of our cannabis-derived medicines and we take pride in not only that, but that we can help people who otherwise may have to turn to harsher drugs like opioids. Medical cannabis can be used in the treatment of:

  •      Chronic pain 
  •      Side effects of cancer (such as nausea from chemo)
  •      Epileptic seizures
  •      Insomnia
  •      Crohn’s Disease
  •      AIDS/HIV
  •      Glaucoma
  •      Anxiety
  •      PTSD
  •      Trauma
  •      Alzheimer’s Disease
  •      Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  •      Parkinson’s Disease
  •      Arthritis

And to believe it or not, these are just to name some of the uses of medical cannabis. Thus, not only are cannabis-derived medicines safer than opioids, but they cover such a wide range of ailments that other medicines are genetically designed to do through chemicals.

Thus, not only is medical cannabis driving down opioid addictions and deaths, but it can be used to treat so many more conditions than any single prescription pill can. So maybe you should ask yourself: Should I try medical cannabis as opposed to prescription pills? If you answered yes, AGRiMED is here to support you and provide you with the highest quality cannabis medicines on the market. Regardless of your choice in medicines, make sure you remain safe and educated on the potential deadly side effects of prescription pills.

References

Bachhuber, Marcus A., Saloner, Brendan, Cunningham, Chinazo O, et al. (2014, October). Medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 174(10), 1668-1673. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1898878.

Kosten, Thomas R. and Tony P. George. (2002, July). The neurobiology of opioid dependence: implications for treatment. Science & Practice Perspectives, 1(1), 13-20. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851054/.  

Rudd, R.A., Aleshire, N., Zibbell, J.E., & Gladden, Matthew R. (2016, March 22). Increases in drug and opioid overdose deaths—United States, 2000-2014. American Journal of Transplantation, 16(4), 1323-1327. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajt.13776/full.

Volkow, Nora D. (2014, May 14). America’s addiction to opioids: heroin and prescription drug abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse.

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