What cannabis can or can’t do is up for much discussion and debate. There is plenty of room for further research and scientific study, absolutely. However, based on what has been observed so far, it’s not far-fetched to suggest that perhaps cannabis could offer some solutions regarding this opioid/methadone/fentanyl addiction and overdose catastrophe occurring all over North America. Especially prevalent here at home, in Vancouver Canada.

Why are people developing this potentially fatal addiction?

If you are not getting your opiates from streets then you are getting them from your doctor. Doctors prescribe opiates to treat severe or chronic pain. But the prescription of opiates to treat non-cancer pain is met with much controversy. 

According to the CDC, limiting the use of opiate to the duration of the pain is crucial to reduce the risk of addiction. They recommend that the duration of treatment should not exceed 3-7 days as, even at low doses, taking an opiate for more than 3 months can make you 15 times more likely to become addicted. 

However, it becomes tricky when dealing with chronic pain since chronic pain is defined as pain that is present for 3 months or longer. This means anyone prescribed opiates for chronic pain is automatically put into a higher risk of developing and addiction as they will likely require treatment for longer than a week. It is no wonder we are facing an opiate crisis. Patients seeking treatment for their conditions are being set up to lose when they are  prescribed medication that will ultimately end in addiction, or potentially, an accidental overdose.

Addiction, withdrawal, and Methadone replacement

What happens when someone tries to quit or reduce their use of painkillers? They are hit in the face with a slew of gruesome withdrawal symptoms. Many turn to Methadone as a means of combatting withdrawal. Methadone is not a solution to anything. It is still highly addictive and can cause its own variety of harmful side effects such as insomnia, paranoia, increased symptoms of mental health disorders, seizures, vomiting, addiction, and the list goes on.

What can cannabis do about pain and addiction?
  1. Prevention:

In 2010, when only 13 states in the US had legalized cannabis, studies found there was an average  decrease of 25% in the rate of painkiller related overdose deaths. Most cases of fatal overdoses occur among patients with legitimate prescriptions for their medication. However, when cannabis is widely available patients tend to make use of it for its ability to relieve several kinds of pain. This results in them reducing their use of prescription painkillers, making the chances of a fatal overdose less likely. We can prevent further opiate related deaths by increasing the availability of cannabis to those treating their pain with prescription opiates. 

  1. Reduction:

Patients addicted to opiates often turn to Methadone to ease their withdrawal symptoms. While it is very effective at relieving symptoms of withdrawal and keeping addicts off hard opiates like heroin, Methadone poses many risks and complications of it own. It is just as addictive as many prescription painkillers, if not more so. Still, there is hope. Studies are starting to show that cannabis can aide in the reduction of daily Methadone intake. One study done in Vancouver (organized by CannaReps own Adolfo Gonzalez) resulted in 36% of participants significantly reducing their daily Methadone consumption from over 100mg per day, down to 20mg. The participants ingested cannabis in the form of standardized THC capsules of 40mg. Studies like this are crucial to combating the opiate epidemic.

  1. Education:

Not only can cannabis help reduce Methadone intake, studies show it also possesses a legitimate capacity to treat pain. These studies begin to uncover the potential healing and therapeutic benefits of cannabis and how it can be used to remedy the opiate epidemic taking place today. Further research is necessary, but with that comes the need to educate. From the scientific community, to the dispensary industry, to the end user- it is critical that we continue to educate the public, and ourselves, on the medicinal properties and application of cannabis. We developed the Cann Help Deck and the CannaReps Workshops after working directly with dispensaries and patients for over a decade. Based on what we have seen and the anecdotal evidence we have accumulated, both pain and opiate addiction can be treated with cannabis in many different ways. The condition card for opiate addiction in the Cann Help Deck indicates that 1:1 tinctures, capsules, THC tears, or various methods of inhalation can be useful for treating opiate or drug dependence. The deck also includes a condition card for pain which indicate various edibles, inhalation methods, or use of topicals as effective methods of treatment and relief.

The Cann Help Deck is a useful and informative tool for anyone working in the dispensary/cannabis industry, or for those who suffer from a condition responsive to cannabis based treatment. CannaReps works diligently to share the data we have accumulated for over a decade of working with patients and dispensaries across the country.

More information about the Cann Help Deck can be found here. Be sure to check out our workshop program for an opportunity to learn even more about the plant and what it can do for people.