With the opioid epidemic spreading like cancer, researchers are on a constant hunt, looking for safer alternatives for pain management. One such questionable alternative is cannabis. The therapeutic use of cannabis has puzzled many scientists over the years and yet it continues to serve as an effective alternative to opioids.
Today we are asking: Could medical cannabis effectively contain the opioid epidemic? Why is the demand for medical cannabis at an all-time high?
Let’s throw some light on the much-debated topic: Marijuana Vs Opioid Epidemic.
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS
Opioids are depressants, placed under the category of pain-relieving medications. Our body has opioid receptors and upon interaction with opioids, they help in pain management. These can be natural as well as synthetic. Opioids such as morphine are derived from the poppy plant, whereas fentanyl and its kind are manufactured in a laboratory (synthetic opiates).
Heroin, a common, and a highly misused illicit drug is an opioid in reality. Not-so-fun-fact: it is actually a brand name. Others include OxyContin and Percocet, which are used as prescription painkillers but work in the same way.
WHY DO WE NEED TO CONTAIN THE OPIOID CRISIS?
Recent studies show that death by opioid misuse has increased multifold over the years. With many communities falling prey to its abuse, America is the worst hit by this epidemic. The following statistics will shock you. The number of deaths resulting from Heroin abuse has gone up by 328% in 2015-16. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl come next in the list and are equally contributing to the death toll. Over here in Europe, Scotland is currently worst affected by rising drug deaths each year.
DANGERS OF OPIOID MEDICATIONS: DEPENDENCY, ADDICTION, AND OVERDOSE
Opioids come with a high risk of addiction when misused or abused.
Normally, an opioid at regulated doses might make you feel drowsy, but it also makes you feel good. The danger is at higher doses, when opiates can cause severe harm by slowing down your heart rate and even lead to death in certain cases (generally overdoses or mixtures with other drugs). So why opt for such an unpredictable drug?
As discussed earlier, misuse of opioids tampers with brain-functioning and comes with a risk of addiction. Opiates are physically addictive, so you cannot simply taper off the drug, unlike many other addictions. Result? Extremely painful withdrawal symptoms that can take weeks to get through.
MARIJUANA: A SAFER DRUG?
Yes. Marijuana or Cannabis is essentially a plant composed of almost over 400 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. The two most popular being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBD).
It is safe because it works on our endocannabinoid system, which is the body’s regulatory system in a way which opiates do not. You also cannot die from cannabis due to an absence of CB1 receptors in the brain stem.
Areas of the world with medical cannabis programmes report the safety of medical cannabis as a treatment option and often prescribe it to children in medical need.
HOW DOES MEDICAL MARIJUANA HELP IN PAIN MANAGEMENT ?
Cannabis works on the body because the cannabinoids it provides fit into our endocannabinoid system.
Of course, some well-known medicinal benefits come from its two most talked about components, THC, and CBD. The former being psychoactive and the later, non-psychoactive. CBD can be consumed in various ways. There are a lot of CBD products like CBD oil, CBD gummies, CBD infused topicals, etc. available in the market. You can read various CBD brand reviews available online to find out which CBD product will be suitable for your need.
CBD and Pain Management
CBD can be useful in treating pain, especially when combined with THC. On its own, CBD works best on pain resulting from inflammatory, arthritis, and injuries. It does this by blocking inflammatory mediators thereby reducing inflammation on a gradual level. Furthermore, the glycine receptors triggered by CBD help in reducing pain from spinal injuries. Vaping CBD is probably the best and the fastest way helpful for the reduction of pain. You can find the best desktop vaporizers at Herbonaut.
CBD is said to work on neuropathic as well as inflammatory pain. Patients often get confused while choosing CBD related medications in whether to opt for full spectrum CBD or CBD in its isolated form. Full spectrum CBD is believed to contain the entire range of cannabinoids which many believe is better for our bodies.
THC and Pain Management
Clinical studies have shown that THC can be useful in reducing central and neuropathic pain. THC is a partial CB1 receptor agonist which means it can bind itself to such receptors, partially relieving pain but at varying levels.
Patients suffering from AIDS, fibromyalgia, and cancer usually show resistance to various pain treatments, but they can count on THC for pain relief to a certain degree. Apart from being an anti-inflammatory agent, THC interacts with the serotonergic, dopaminergic, and glutamatergic systems to substantially manage pain.
ENSURING GOOD QUALITY MEDICINE
Efficacy of marijuana as a painkiller depends on the THC: CBD ratio, cultivation method and even the species of plant. Plant-based products suffer from one big demerit ie determination of consistency and purity. Cultivation of marijuana if not tricky, needs a lot of attention. High-quality seeds are a must for healthy cannabis plant. Proper temperature, lighting conditions, and humidity play a key role in the cultivation of marijuana. Similarly, adequate spacing between the buds gives them proper nutrition and avoids any competition for growth.
Under prohibition, pesticides and PGRs could be in much of the bud without people knowing, which presents a health risk. However, if patients choose to grow their own or are lucky enough to live in an area with legal access and quality control regulations including rigorous testing, then the risks of cannabis are mitigated.
Cannabis is a promising treatment for chroinic pain conditions for many people, yet this is an area that needs further awareness as people do not have access to medical cannabis for this condition, which makes no sense as the alternatives are the very opiates causing issues with addiction and overdoses.
In parts of the US with medical cannabis legalisation we see a reduction of a whopping 25% of deaths from the opioid epidemic. If that isn’t an argument for full cannabis legalisation, I don’t know what is!