The overuse and misuse of opioid medications is major public health problem for which we don’t currently have an effective solution. Nearly 2.5 million Americans struggle with opioid addiction and over 100 people die every day from opioid overdose. Though controversial, more and more evidence is showing that medical cannabis could be a lifesaving component of a strategy to solve to this epidemic.
I recently had the opportunity to work with Sanjay Gupta on the fourth installment of his groundbreaking series on CNN, Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills, which aired last month, helping to explain how cannabis can be a solution to this epidemic.
How Cannabis Reduces Opioid Dependence
Thousands of people have used cannabis to help them reduce and replace opioid medications, as demonstrated in numerous recent scientific papers and strongly supported by animal research.
Like the reports in the scientific literature, I’ve seen the same positive results firsthand in my medical practices. From a survey of our patients in 2016, of the 542 opioid users who added cannabis:
- 39% were able to completely stop opioid use
- 39% used cannabis to reduce their opioid dosage
- Adding cannabis reduced pain by more than 40% in nearly half the patients and improved function in 80%
- In 87% of patients, it improved quality of life
Cannabis alone isn’t enough to completely solve this epidemic, but we know it can help replace the opioids, improve their safety, and increase adherence to addiction treatment programs.
A Guide to Reducing Opioid Use With Cannabis
It’s essential that everyone who is concerned with this problem learn about the potential solution that’s right within reach, so we can make this life-saving treatment available for those dependent on opioids. For this reason, I have created guidelines based on my experience treating chronic pain with cannabis in 8 years of clinical practice, conferring with my colleagues, and closely following the scientific literature. These guidelines apply to patients from any walk of life, including those with chronic pain, PTSD, addiction, non-medical use of opioids, etc.
In How to Use Cannabis to Reduce and Replace Opioid Medications, you’ll find the advantages of adding cannabis, complete with scientific references and specific dosing strategies for successfully relieving the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and enhancing the safety and medical benefits of opioids.
The guide includes links to several of my free online cannabis education programs for both patients new to cannabis and experienced cannabis consumers, and other programs that can help improve your likelihood of successfully using cannabis to reduce and replace opioid medications.
This guide is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for diagnostic or treatment purposes. It is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. I strongly suggest that patients:
- Discuss the intention to use cannabis to reduce and replace opioids with the prescribing health care provider and collaborate to achieve your goals.
- Work with an experienced cannabis clinician who can monitor and provide feedback on the use of cannabis.
Those who are most successful in using cannabis to replace opioid drugs always use a combination of pharmacologic and behavioral interventions. No medication is powerful enough to accomplish this goal on its own. By prioritizing and organizing the proper resources for sleep, exercise, counseling, support groups, and social support, you can ensure your success.
If you decide to follow this path of treatment to reduce or replace medications, I want to learn from your experiences. Please share them with me here.
Lead image: RobinOlimb, Pingebat/iStock