Marijuana: Addiction Treatment for Opioid Dependency

Marijuana as an addiction treatment for opioid dependency is gaining popularity among professionals in the field of medicine. As legalities slowly become more accommodating, physicians approach a new world of addiction care with the versatility of cannabis.

Physicians in the New England region of the U.S. have been prescribing medical marijuana to treat opioid addiction for several years. Dr. Harold Altvater, a doctor in Massachusetts, has used medical marijuana to substitute for other medications frequently and has seen some success.

“You are basically taking something that can be very harmful for an individual, and substituting it with another chemical, just like you would any other drug, that has a wider safety margin… So, if the goal is to decrease the body count, the goal would be to get them on to a chemical that was safer,” said Dr. Altvater.

Marijuana addiction treatment for opioid dependency has been proven effective. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a study in 2014, showing that the states in which medicinal marijuana usage had been legalized, there was 25 percent fewer opioid-related deaths. A representative from Maine, Diane Russell, posed a legitimate question: “Why take a solution off the table when people are telling us and physicians are telling us that it’s working?”

Medical Marijuana
[Image by Jeff Chiu/AP Images]

So far, most of the 28 states that have medical marijuana regulations in place have shown a drop in opioid-related illnesses and deaths. There have been some hurdles and snags along the way, but the field of medicine is opened wide to medicinal marijuana. In some states, military veterans have been vehemently denied the right to receive medical cannabis treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Given that marijuana has been proven successful in treating anxiety, pain, and depression in most users, cannabis would seemingly be a sound solution.

Skeptics often argue that marijuana is addiction forming, and it should not be used to treat an existing addiction. Dr. Tod Mikuriya, the author of Marijuana in Medicine, found that cannabis “did not lead to physical dependence, (and) it was found to be superior to the opiates for a number of therapeutic purposes.” Mikuriya authored Marijuana in Medicine in 1969. That means for over 40 years the medical community has been knowledgeable about the benefits of marijuana.

Medicinal Marijuana
[Image by Ed Andrieski/AP Images]

Marijuana addiction treatment for opioid dependency is prescribed to combat withdrawal symptoms and other physical issues that reduce a patient’s quality of life. Chronic pain, nausea, tremors, and anxiety have all been treated successfully in a clear majority of patients with medicinal marijuana. The treatment is not new. In 1931, Time Magazine addressed the issue in an article stating that “in spite of the legends, no case of physical, mental or moral degeneration has ever been traced exclusively to marijuana… doctors have recently been experimenting with the drug as an aid in curing opium addiction.”

THC Edibles
[Image by Ed Andrieski/AP Images]

Marijuana addiction itself has also been proven a myth. Early studies showed signs of withdrawal in test subjects, but it was later discovered that these people were being dosed with the equivalent of 15-20 joints per day. That is three to four times more THC intake than even the average, heavy, daily smoker inhales. It is no wonder that their patients woke up a little sluggish the next morning.

The fight of an addict will always be an uphill battle. Marijuana treatment is no miracle cure, but there is something to be said about the positive changes doctors all over the New England area have experienced. If you, or someone you love, struggles with addiction, help is not an insurmountable desire. Research local treatment options, and seek help.

[Featured Image by Russel A. Daniels/AP Images]