Medical Cannabis Reduces Use of Opioids
A study from the University of Michigan found that patients using medical marijuana to control chronic pain reported a 64 percent reduction in the use of opioids (prescription painkillers). The patients also noticed that medical marijuana had less side effects in comparison to painkillers and overall they felt better.
Since 1996, when California became the first U.S state to legalize medical marijuana, many other states have joined suit… including Florida. Even before Florida legalized medical marijuana, medical scientists discovered the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids, which occur when the THC in marijuana binds with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This discovery by Miles Herkenham in the early 1990s was when marijuana or cannabis was beginning to be a viable medical solution to relieving pain. Qualified physicians, where medical marijuana is legal, could now recommend marijuana as a pain reliever without any legal repercussions. As studies continue to show, medical marijuana is changing the availability of opioid alternatives, due to effectiveness and results medical cannabis provides.
The main purpose of the study was to determine if medical marijuana was more effective at managing pain versus opioids that might have otherwise been ineffective for some patients. It is worth noting that the study was conducted at a medical cannabis dispensary, where those participating in the study were likely to already believe in the benefits of medical marijuana.
“The 185 patients from a medical marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor also reported fewer side effects from their medications and a 45-percent improvement in quality of life since using cannabis to manage pain.”
With recent talks of cut backs on traditional painkillers by national health leaders, researchers from the study suggest that patients finding an alternative to painkillers could not have come a better time. “We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic and we need to figure out what to do about it,” said Kevin Boehnke, lead author of the study. “I’m hoping our research continues a conversation of cannabis as a potential alternative for opioids.”
Everyday multiple people die from opioid overdoses. The CDC has even issued recommended guidelines for these prescribed opioids and have noticed a large increase in prescriptions of these drugs since the drugs were first available.
Opioids are drugs derived from opium in the form of tablets, capsules, or liquid. The drug works to block pain receptors in the nervous system to relieve pain and restore regular function. Opioids can also be used to suppress cough, treat addiction, suppress diarrhea, reverse opioid overdose, and suppress opioid induced constipation. Common opioids such as Morphine or Oxycodone are painkillers that can be habit forming and can be dangerous if misused. Using them as directed by your doctor or by the packaging are the best ways to be safe from an overdose or even death.
During the research, a correlation between the high dosage of opioids taken and deaths were found. This could be due to accidental overdose because the patient could be experiencing extreme pain as well as reading labels wrong. With medical marijuana or medical cannabis, overdose is almost a non-factor making it a safer alternative to opioids, which, in turn should result in less habit-forming scenarios and, ultimately, less deaths and other life-altering impacts.
The results of the study also found that medical cannabis may help more with the type of pain seen in patients who suffer from fibromyalgia because there were more positive findings in this area. Medical marijuana is likely to have the same positive results for patients suffering from other types of disease where opioids or painkillers are the current solution. Overall, it was those who suffer from less severe chronic pain who reported medical cannabis to the the better solution over opioids.
As with all medical scenarios, it is wise to first consult with your primary physician before making any changes to your current medical situation. But, medical marijuana continues to gain momentum as an alternative, safer treatment to opioids.
Researchers in the study found that based on population level research, there is a reduction of opioid use in states where medical marijuana is legal and those using this form of medication have reported a better quality of life versus when they were taking opioids.
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