How Medical Marijuana Treats Opiate Addiction

Medical Marijuana Treats Opiate Addiction

For many years there has been significant debate surrounding the potential medicinal qualities of marijuana. Specific components of marijuana, specifically THC, have proven medical benefits when used in treating several acute and chronic conditions. To date, the Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved several THC based medications which are used to treat symptoms related to cancer and AIDS treatment. THC and another component of marijuana, CBD, are commonly used in medicines for treating chronic pain treatment and childhood epilepsy. 

Marijuana has been a proven, successful treatment for several conditions over the last decade. Today, marijuana is being looked at, and in some cases, used as a treatment for opioid addiction. However, many questions remain regarding its success in limiting opioid addiction and overdose death. 

What Is Medical Marijuana?

By definition, medical marijuana (or medical cannabis) is cannabis and cannabinoids prescribed by physicians for patients struggling with the symptoms of specific illnesses. Due to previous legislation having made cannabis illegal across the nation, there is a minimal amount of research proving or disproving the efficacy of cannabis as a medical treatment. However, it has been used for many years to reduce symptoms related to glaucoma, nausea, and pain induced by chemotherapy and various other conditions, including chronic pain management and neurological disorders. 

How Is Medical Marijuana Used to Treat Opioid Addiction?

Despite ongoing pushes to legalize marijuana across the nation, medical marijuana remains a highly controversial medical treatment. Opioid addiction is one of the newest medical conditions for which medical marijuana is an up-and-coming treatment. Although the idea of using a drug (that is still illegal in over half of the United States) to treat an addiction to another illegal drug may seem counterintuitive, marijuana has shown promise in helping individuals addicted to opioids safely wean off them. 

Detoxing and withdrawing from opioids can be very difficult and, in some cases, dangerous. While often legally prescribed, opioids can be highly addictive, and once a legal prescription runs out, some find themselves searching for other means to obtain them. Addiction to opioids can happen after just a.few doses. With continued use and abuse, tolerance to opioids increases resulting in the need to use more and more to obtain the same “high.” This increasing use pattern significantly increases the risk of overdose. 

The goal of opioid addiction treatment is always abstinence; however, total abstinence is not always immediately possible.  Consequently, addiction treatment centers provide several options to withdraw and detox from opioids at a rate that makes patients as comfortable as possible. Medical marijuana may be a viable option. Marijuana contains cannabinoids (chemicals), including THC, which result in mind-altering effects when used. The two primary chemicals in marijuana, THC, and CBD, provide similar effects as opioids when used to treat chronic medical conditions. Marijuana, if used as an alternative treatment for conditions in which opioids are traditionally prescribed, could begin to turn the tide of opioid addiction. If used in a treatment setting, opioids can help with harm reduction while helping opioid addicted people wean off opioids. It is essential to note that marijuana is not meant to be a cure for addiction, yet a means of assisting with symptom reduction.

Relevance Recovery Is Actively Fighting Opioid Addiction 

There is no cookie-cutter treatment for opioid addiction. Medical marijuana is currently an option that may show promise when used in conjunction with existing evidence-based therapies such as behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, addiction education, dual-diagnosis care, and other medically assisted detox methods. Any treatment model used to manage opioid addiction should be used in conjunction with a robust therapeutic treatment program and aftercare planning. Opioids have a significant impact on mood and behaviors, and thought processes, as well as effects on your physical health. All of these combine to make withdrawal challenging and increase the chances of relapse. If you are struggling with opioid addiction and are ready to seek help, contact us at Relevance Behavioral Health today. Let our experienced addiction treatment staff help you start on the path to recovery.