Cannabis and Opioids

 We know opioids are a problem in America.  They have been over-prescribed, and under regulated for far too long, and too many Americans are suffering.  Meanwhile, we restrict access to fantastic alternatives, like cannabis.  

Case in point: Americans make up only 5% of the world’s population, but we consume 84% of global oxycodone (OxyContin) and 99% of hydrocodone (Vicodin).  There were 49,000 deaths from opioids in America in 2017, more than 2/3 of all drug related deaths.

But here is the interesting news.  In States with Medical Marijuana Laws, there has been a 20-40% drop in deaths from opioid overdoses. (JAMA 2014).  In addition, Medicare spending was reduced by $165 million dollars in 2013, in states that had medical cannabis available.

This has led to some very interesting cannabis advocates in Congress.  Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) along with Tom Tillis (R-NC) and 5 Democrats introduced a bi-partisan Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act (MEDS) in September of 2017, and though it is questionable whether the act will pass, it is clear that both parties are interested in medical marijuana for its effectiveness in fighting pain and thereby reducing the need for opioids.  The bill is currently stuck in the Judiciary Committee.

Cannabis is an effective opioid replacement because it works in a few ways to fight pain:

  1. Producing analgesic effects that quell transmission of ascending and descending pain signals along the pathways that go to the brain and from the brain to other areas
  2. Producing anti-inflammatory effects through influence on neurotransmitter release
  3. Stimulating the release of the body’s own pain relief molecules (endorphins)

There are many other reasons a majority of Americans support cannabis legalization, but opioid avoidance is certainly one of them.

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