Sun Journal recently published an article in their Columns & Analysis by Timothy Smale, owner of Remedy Compassion Center in Auburn. He looks into the possibility of cannabis for pain being the solution to curb the rampant opioid problem.
Opiate and heroin is endemic in US
He starts by saying the opioid and heroin epidemic in the US, especially in Maine is critical. He offers an alternative opinion in a white paper entitled “Medical Cannabis Access for Pain Treatment; A Viable Strategy to Address the Opioid Crisis”.
The paper covers the fact that deaths caused by opioid overdose were reduced by 25 percent in states like Maine with medical cannabis state programs.
It also covers findings by researchers that THC acts in conjunction with opioid-based painkillers to enhance opioid effectiveness, especially in the case of neuropathic pain. THC not only enhances the pain relieving effect of opioids, but also serves to lower the dosage of opioids needed, thus minimizing the risk of opioid use.
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Cut opioid use by half
The Clinical Journal of Pain covered a retrospective survey done at the University of Michigan of 185 patients from a marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These patients report they have cut their opioid use by half after treating their chronic pain with medical marijuana.
Animal studies also showed that cannabidiol works in synergy with opioids to alleviate pain, therefore less opioids are used when cannabis is used in conjunction with opioids. The Clinical Journal of Pain also reported on a study of 176 pain patients in Israel in which 44 percent stopped taking prescription opioids after seven months of using medicinal cannabis.
Medical cannabis the better option in the long run
Scientific American reported medical cannabis might not be an appropriate replacement for opioids in all medical conditions, for instance in the case of end-of-life care in acute pain from cancer, broken bones and major surgery, opioid prescription is standard. In other cases medical cannabis could prove the better solution in the long run, replacing opioids altogether.
Today 35,000 Maine residents are on a medical cannabis program regulated by the DHHS, some 4,000 found relief at the dispensary operated by Smale. He says it sometimes feels to him as if there is a huge flood, and experts are coming together to strategize a rescue plan while he is already in a little lifeboat ushering patients to safety.
He told reporters that he hopes research and science catch up fast on the reality that cannabis can save lives, preventing fatal opioid overdoses. He cannot ignore patients reporting on a daily basis that they have reduced or ceased opioid use once they started on medical cannabis.
Opioids leads to heroin, cannabis doesn’t
He says the most convincing insight to warrant research into cannabis as an option to alleviate the epidemic, is that opioid users are 40 times more likely to use heroin compared to three times the likelihood in cannabis users.
Medical cannabis patients also report on having a life again, being more interactive with people and their surroundings, suffering less side-effects such as irritability and constipation, being not so dependent or worried about overdose and alcohol or drug adverse interaction. Harm reducing factors make a compelling case for medical cannabis to be considered by legislators, researchers, the medical fraternity and the general public as such.
Cannabis for chronic pain
Cannabis for chronic pain is a serious consideration for anyone using opioids, experts say, and it’s much safer, even when used in conjunction with these pain killing drugs.