When it comes to pain relief, marijuana vs opioids are a hotbed issue. Both are effective in relieving pain, but marijuana is less likely to be associated with addiction. So, could marijuana fix the opioid epidemic? Read on to find out.
What are Opioids?
To get a handle on the marijuana vs opioids matter, it’s important to understand what opioid are.
Opioids are drugs often prescribed to patients to relieve pain. They attach to nerve cells in the body to block pain messages sent from the spinal cord to the brain. They also release dopamine throughout the body producing feelings of euphoria.
There are a variety of opioids on the market including:
Heroin is an example of an illegal opioid.
Why Do People Get Addicted to Opioids?
There are various reasons why people may get addicted to opioids. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe opioids for pain. A person may begin taking them excessively because they believe they need more to treat their pain or because they like its euphoric effects.
Opioids may also be sold illegally on the street to people who are looking to enjoy its euphoric effects and/or self-medicate.
When opioids are taken irresponsibly, an addiction is likely to form. The person gets so used to having opioids in their systems, they are unable to function without them. They feel withdrawal symptoms when opioids are not present in their body and need to take the drugs to feel normal.
How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?
The government and several health organizations have made concerted efforts to address the opioid crisis, but it doesn’t seem to be improving. More than 500,000 opioid involved deaths have happened since 2000. Opioid overdoses were the leading cause of death in 2020.
Marijuana vs Opioids: Could Marijuana Help the Opioid Epidemic?
The opioid epidemic is bleak, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of marijuana. A recent American Medical Association study shows about one in three chronic pain patients use marijuana as a treatment option as opposed to opioids and other pain medications.
The cross-sectional study which was published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Substance Use and Addiction collected data from 1724 adults 18 and over throughout the United States. Half of the adults who used cannabis to manage their pain said it led them to decrease their reliance on opioids fueling the marijuana vs opioid theory. They also said it reduced their use of prescription non-opioids and OTC medications.
The fact that marijuana seems to be winning the marijuana vs opioids debate is good news, but there are some concerns.
“The high degree of substitution of cannabis with both opioid and non-opioid treatment emphasizes the importance of research to clarify the effectiveness and potential adverse consequences of marijuana. Our results suggest that state cannabis laws have enabled access to cannabis as an analgesic treatment despite knowledge gaps in use as a medical treatment for pain,” the study states.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano weighed in on the marijuana vs cannabis topic with the following blog post statement. “(Cannabis) established efficacy in the treatment of multiple conditions including chronic pain, and it possesses a safety profile that is comparable or superior to other controlled substances.
“So it’s no wonder that those with legal access to it are substituting cannabis in lieu of other, potentially less effective and more harmful substances. As legal access continues to expand, one would expect cannabis substitution to grow even more pronounced in the future.”
Other Marijuana vs Opioid Studies
The recent AMA study is far from the only one conducted that established marijuana vs opioids as a logical substitute for treating pain. Here are some other studies to consider:
- Another AMA and study showed state level legalization is associated with a significant decrease of opioid use in cancer patients.
- A study released in September showed that giving people legal access to medical cannabis helped reduce or stop their opioid use.
- Another study found that pharmaceutical companies suffered a significant financial hit with the growing acceptance of marijuana to the tune of nearly $10 billion for each legalization.
- A 2022 research paper showed that legalizing marijuana has led to a considerable decrease in the use of prescription drugs.
- A study funded by a top federal drug agency showed that the state level legalization of marijuana is not associated with an increase in cannabis use among youth.
Marijuana vs. Opioid: What are the Issues?
While the evidence of marijuana vs opioids seems promising so far, there are some issues involved. For example, a 2018 study showed that marijuana may be linked to an increase in opioid use. It banks on the ‘gateway drug’ theory showing that once people become hooked on marijuana, they will seek out stronger forms of stimulation which opioids provide.
And marijuana also comes with its own share of side effects. These include a lack of motivation, possible paranoia and anxiety, and mental addiction.
The marijuana vs opioids debate rages on. But there is no doubt that marijuana is an effective way for some to treat pain. And as compared to opioids, it is the safer of the two.
If you are looking for marijuana for your medical and recreational needs, South Coast Safe Access is recommended. Our weed dispensary in Santa Ana offers a large selection of cannabis products including vapes, pre-rolls flower and more. Browse the SCSA menu to find the items best suited to your needs.
Contact us to find out more about what we have to offer.