The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. In response, states have been liberalizing their marijuana policies to help combat this crisis. But a recent study suggests that medical cannabis may actually be helping to reduce opioid addiction and overdose deaths.
It may not come as a surprise to learn that the world is now experiencing an opioid epidemic. Opioid misuse and addiction are also prevalent in nations outside of the United Kingdom and the United States, including as Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Estonia. Carl Esprey investigates why the simple marijuana plant, which is used to make medical cannabis, may be the key to ending the opioid epidemic.
In clinical studies, over 85% of UK patients said medicinal cannabis was more effective than opioids and other pain medications in relieving pain, implying that prescription cannabis for medical purposes may help address the worldwide opioid epidemic.
The Struggle to End Chronic Pain
Every day, millions of individuals all around the globe experience chronic pain in some form or another. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts three months or more and has a detrimental effect on a person’s quality of life. After contracting the virus, the Covid-19 pandemic has left many more individuals with musculoskeletal pain, and it has allegedly led those who already have chronic pain to have more severe pain with what is now known as long-Covid.
“Chronic pain affects between one-third and one-half of the population of the UK, equivalent to slightly under 28 million people, based on data from the best available published studies,” according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ). With an aging population, this number is expected to become much higher.” According to Science Daily, “Researchers estimate that 50.2 million (20.5%) of U.S. adults suffer from chronic pain, based on new NHIS data.” They calculated that the yearly cost of lost production owing to chronic pain is approximately $300 billion.”
Opioids have long been the go-to medication for treating pain complaints, at least since the 1990s. Opioids are extremely addictive, which has led to individuals taking more than the prescribed dosage, taking them too often, and, in some instances, overdosing, resulting in death! As a result, even the United Nations is investigating the worldwide opioid epidemic and debating how to effectively handle it.
Why Medicinal Cannabis Could Be the Key to Ending the Opioid Epidemic
Medicinal cannabis, produced from the cannabis plant, has proven to be a promising alternative to opioids in the treatment of severe chronic pain. More study is being done all the time to see how successful medicinal cannabis is at treating various illnesses, particularly those involving pain.
Project Twenty21 is presently conducting a research on individuals with particular illnesses who are already being treated with conventional medications, which is being monitored by Drug Science. The goal of the initiative is to build the biggest body of evidence in the UK to give to the NHS so that it can devote more resources to prescribing medical cannabis to people who need it.
“There is little or no evidence that [frequently given medicines like benzodiazepines or opioids] improve people’s quality of life, pain, or psychological distress, but they may cause damage, including addiction,” according to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).
According to preliminary results, prescription medicinal cannabis has improved the quality of life for many medical illnesses by more than 50%.
In November 2018, the UK made it lawful to prescribe medicinal cannabis for certain illnesses (such as epilepsy and MS) and by doctors on the General Medical Council’s Specialist Register. Referrals from doctors are possible, but they are very restricted.
“In the United Kingdom, physicians have found it difficult to reliably prescribe legal, medicinal cannabis due to a lack of clinical data. These new results are a significant step forward in understanding the potential value of these medications for thousands of critically sick patients.” Professor David Nutt, the founder of Drug Science.
The Cannabis Medicinal Solution
The cannabis plant has been around for millennia and has been utilized for medicinal reasons in a variety of methods until recently. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two chemicals found in the cannabis plant that have been proven to have medicinal properties.
The THC component is responsible for the cannabis plant’s “high.” According to studies, administering a combination of the two in modest amounts for certain medical problems is more helpful than treating them alone. CBD is usually well tolerated on its own.
These encouraging studies and early results are exactly why medical cannabis may herald the end of the opiate epidemic, but more study is required. We really hope it works, for the sake of so many lives.