In 2016, the CDC described opioid abuse as an “epidemic” and said that it was responsible for more than 52,000 deaths in the United States. It also said that opioid overdose was the leading cause of accidental death in the country. But new research suggests that there may be a safer alternative to opioids that could help curb opioid addiction and dependence.
A new study has found that cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana, may help curb opioid dependency. The study, published online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, examined the effects of CBD on rats that had been trained to self-administer morphine. The researchers found that, compared to their control counterparts, rats that had been administered CBD showed significantly lower levels of morphine-associated receptors in their brain tissue, suggesting that CBD may have helped with the animals’ addiction to opioid drugs.
Despite progress toward legalization and de-stigmatization, many Americans still see cannabis as a gateway drug to other, more deadly drugs.
Despite our best attempts, the coronavirus epidemic has brought out the worst in some of us. Dealing with the loss of employment, family, friends, and day-to-day activities has resulted in a rise in unhealthy habits across all demographics, such as alcohol use, illegal drug use, and mental health problems.
Cannabis and opiates were two of the most common drugs used by many Americans (and Canadians!) to cope with the pandemic’s effects. While there has never been a fatality linked to cannabis, opioid overdose fatalities have risen throughout the nation; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 70,000 individuals overdosed on opioids in 2020, with fentanyl accounting for the majority of them.
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Fentanyl, like many other opioids, is highly addictive, and establishing a dependence may be deadly. Thankfully, two new studies suggest that cannabis, which is not an opioid and does not induce hypoxia, may provide users and addicts with relief from both pain and opioid usage.
According to research published in the journals Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research and PLOS Medicine, there is a “independent negative association” between frequent cannabis use and frequent illicit opioid use, with up to 50% of patients using opioids for back pain being able to stop using them, and 31% of those who continued to use opioids being able to reduce their use.
In a research published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 61 individuals out of 180 were found to be taking opioids to treat lower back pain, for which opioids are often given. The majority of individuals were able to progressively quit or decrease their opioid dependency over a six-year period, but some users among those who did not stop taking opioids instead increased their usage.
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THC and CBD are both known for their pain-relieving abilities, but they act better together (the “entourage effect”). Because of the differences in how the two cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system’s receptors, combining the two through inhalation or ingestion is advised for optimal effectiveness.
According to the PLOS Medicine research, some individuals’ use of illegal substances or abusing medications for pain is due to a lack of access to and knowledge about alternative treatments, rather than a preference for a specific substance. Cannabis users were more likely to self-report using marijuana for medical reasons, and greater rates of cannabis use were associated with reduced opioid dependency, suggesting that cannabis may be a useful adjuvant or substitute for opioids in the treatment of chronic pain and its negative side effects.
Despite progress toward legalization and de-stigmatization, many Americans still see cannabis as a gateway drug to other, more deadly drugs. While both findings are encouraging, they also point to the need for further study and funding to better understand the long-term effects of cannabis usage on opiate addicts.
We are just scraping the surface of cannabis’ full potential as more states and nations legalize it and make it easier to get and research.
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