Cannabis may be the victor needed to combat the opioid epidemic.
The beneficial attributes of cannabis are no secret to the American public as they have been a topic for discussion (or rather debate) for decades ever since it’s illegalization back in the 1930’s. Some of the most notable symptoms that cannabis has been proven to assist with are relief from pain, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and lack of appetite (notably for cancer patients going through medical procedures such as chemotherapy or radiation). However, one realm which cannabis is not as well known for is in helping people kick their addictions to opioids.
Over the past few years, cannabis has been gaining considerable attention in combating the opioid epidemic (which it has officially been labeled as. Taking the country by storm over the past decade or so, and of course, as with anything else that cannabis finds itself involved in, there are strong opinions on both sides of the fence. However, the question people really need to be contemplating (regardless of whether you’re an advocate for medicinal cannabis or just outright don’t like it in any light) is: If its utilization can lead to a decrease in the number of overdoses and deaths that stem from opioid abuse, can it really been seen as a negative thing?
A significant part of America’s history has been its infamous war on drugs – one in which cannabis has been no exception to. But when looked at through the lens of a full-blown epidemic, there have only been a handful of drugs that can honestly fit this criterion due to their widespread abuse and deadly consequences. In the 1980’s, it was crack cocaine. In the 90’s, it was crystal meth. And now, in the 2010s, the drug that has taken the front seat in this avalanche of abuse is opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin. This widespread addiction is one that is shocking on all levels as it is now the leading cause of accidental deaths in the country. Though there have been many solutions proposed forth to stop (or at least curtail) this plague of dependencies, overdoses, and deaths, most are unfortunately out of reach for many due to their extremely high costs or exclusion from being covered under many health insurance policies. But then – then there’s an alternate medicinal approach that it seems many have underestimated (again): cannabis.
Commonly as is with cannabis, it never really gets the complete acknowledgment and respect it deserves in regards to how it can help the human body. Too often referred to (exclusively and solely) as a gateway drug, the incorporation of cannabis products can also work to ease someone through the intense withdrawal symptoms that come along with ditching pharmaceutically-produced painkillers – and can even be more effective in keeping the patient from relapsing (after all, that’s the overall goal in this era’s war on drugs, isn’t it?). Furthermore, the mere fact that it is impossible to overdose on cannabis products is probably one of the biggest reasons why it should be one of the first choices turned to when it comes to getting someone off opioids. Likewise, when trying to wean someone off a powerful painkiller with other opioid-based substances (such as Methadone, Suboxone, or other less-intense painkillers), withdrawal is always an all-too-likely risk. And aside from the fact that cannabis can remedy nearly all the side effects of opioid withdrawal, it is also much more accessible and affordable to individuals who are seeking help than, say, an extended stay at a rehab treatment facility. With all this being said, it should be pointed out that cannabis is not being advocated as a perfect solution, but rather an extremely effective and economical one in the fight against the growing opioid epidemic.
Harm reduction therapy has been gaining popularity in the movement to embrace cannabis for its medicinal advantages. In theory, harm reduction advocates that by providing an opioid addict with a substitutive, less harmful substance to replace opioids with, then it is a step in the right direction which can only be beneficial. And that other substance that will serve as a stepping stone is none other than cannabis. As mentioned, it is the ideal medicine that would alleviate all the harsh symptoms of withdrawal, while also helping the patient maintain a positive state of mind – something that is crucial for someone in their position if they wish to be successful in their efforts. At the end of the treatment, whether the patient chooses to continue her/his trials with cannabis or become abstinent from all substances, the individual is an overall healthier person who can contribute so much more to society. So then why has it not been used as the main weapon in this fight?
The number one reason for cannabis’ exclusion for stepping foot into the ring with opioids is historical in nature; it is simply due to the fact that it has been illegal so for long and, as a result, research restrictions (as well as willingness for insurance companies be seen anywhere near it) has been a difficult obstacle to get passed. However, if rehab facilities and insurance providers (not to mention the federal government) would open up an eye to its true potential as a key player in, not only getting people off opioids, but even being used as an all-out substitute for them, it would not only do wonders to help the well-being of the country, it can also bring in a lot of money (a lot). Think about it: to market cannabis as a medicine meant to draw people away from the prescription painkillers, it can mean the emergence of an entirely new healthcare sub-industry. In turn, the monetary profit alone could translate into thousands of new jobs for the state as new businesses spring up in response to its new-found (or rather, new-granted) demand. From farmers to entrepreneurs running their own medicinal dispensaries, the amount of revenue that could potentially be brought in is really only secondhand (yet nevertheless astonishing) to the benefit that would be seen on a social level as a large portion of the addict-population are now actually able to kick their addictions and function on a much higher level of productivity. Even rehab clinics that specialize in cannabis-centered therapy (ie, Harm Reduction) can see the emergence of an entirely new branch in the social services industry. All in all, the result would equate to a healthier population and a booming economy. What can surpass that?
It is important to keep in mind that, just like addition, recovery is a business on its own. But unfortunately, it is a business that has been taken over and monopolized by pharmaceutical industries that greatly restrict their access to only a portion of people who make a certain amount of income. And the rest who are out of reach, well, they are left to take care of themselves, which many times, is not a realistic option and results in reoccurring relapses. This is not something that could happen if we things don’t change soon, it is happening now and it is time for a change – time for the medical industry to try a different approach – or at least consider the possibility of investing in much more, well-deserved research on the matter. And though the concept of incorporating cannabis as part of a recovery plan seems a bit too, let’s say retro, for some to fathom, the astonishing results of its medicinal-legalization are nothing new. Of the 28 U.S. states that have legalized medicinal cannabis, since the laws have gone into effect, there has been a 25% reduction in the number of opioid overdoses and deaths in those states as a result. This correlation is not a coincidence.
Originally posted 2017-10-18 16:21:57.