How Cannabis Can Help Combat the Opioid Epidemic

drug epidemic hands grabbing pills

The potential benefits of cannabis are widely recognized among the American public and have been the subject of debate for decades since its legalization in the 1930s. While cannabis is known to provide relief from pain, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and lack of appetite, its effectiveness in helping individuals overcome opioid addiction is not as well-known. In recent years, cannabis has gained significant attention as a potential tool in fighting the opioid epidemic, which has plagued the country for the past decade. Despite differing opinions on the use of medicinal cannabis, the pressing question remains: if cannabis can help reduce overdoses and deaths resulting from opioid abuse, can it truly be seen as a negative intervention?

Throughout America’s history, the war on drugs has targeted various substances, and only a few have reached the level of a full-blown epidemic due to their widespread abuse and deadly consequences. In the 1980s, crack cocaine was the focus, followed by crystal meth in the 1990s. In the 2010s, opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin took center stage, leading to shocking levels of addiction and accidental deaths. Despite numerous proposed solutions to address this plague of dependencies, overdoses, and deaths, many of these options are inaccessible to those in need due to high costs or limited coverage by health insurance policies. However, an alternative medicinal approach that has been underestimated is cannabis.

Unfortunately, cannabis often fails to receive the recognition and respect it deserves in terms of its potential benefits for the human body. While it has been unjustly labeled as a gateway drug, cannabis can effectively alleviate the intense withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting pharmaceutical painkillers and even help prevent relapses. Additionally, the fact that it is impossible to overdose on cannabis products makes it a safer choice when attempting to wean individuals off opioids. Withdrawal from powerful painkillers often carries the risk of substituting them with other opioid-based substances, leading to potential complications. In contrast, cannabis can address nearly all the side effects of opioid withdrawal, and its accessibility and affordability make it a viable option for those seeking help. It is crucial to note that cannabis is not being advocated as a perfect solution, but rather as an extremely effective and cost-effective tool in the fight against the growing opioid epidemic.

Harm reduction therapy, which promotes the use of less harmful substances as alternatives to opioids, has gained popularity in advocating for the medicinal benefits of cannabis. By providing opioid addicts with a substitutive substance, such as cannabis, that is less harmful, it represents a step in the right direction. Cannabis can alleviate the harsh symptoms of withdrawal and help patients maintain a positive state of mind, which is crucial for successful recovery. At the end of treatment, whether patients choose to continue using cannabis or become completely abstinent, they emerge as healthier individuals who can contribute more to society. So why hasn’t cannabis been utilized as a primary weapon in this fight?

The primary reason for cannabis’ exclusion from the battle against opioids is historical. The long-standing illegal status of cannabis has hindered research and discouraged insurance companies from getting involved. However, if rehab facilities, insurance providers, and the federal government recognize the true potential of cannabis as a key player in combating opioid addiction and consider it as a substitute for opioids, it could have far-reaching benefits. Promoting cannabis as a medicine to help people transition away from prescription painkillers could lead to the emergence of a new healthcare sub-industry. This, in turn, would create job opportunities and generate significant revenue, benefiting both individuals and the economy. Even rehab clinics specializing in cannabis-centered therapy, such as harm reduction, could establish themselves as a new branch within the social services industry. The overall result would be a healthier population and a thriving economy.