Is Cannabis the Solution to the Opioid Epidemic in the United States & Beyond?

The ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States is one of the most tragic and costly health issues of the moment, contributing to many deaths and creating a great strain on the health care and social service system in parts of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 100 people a day are dying of opioid abuse in the United States.

What Is Causing the Opioid Crisis?

The opioid crisis gathered steam and grew into a full-fledged epidemic over the past decade as millions of Americans with chronic pain issues were prescribed opioid drugs like oxycodone to soothe their suffering. Oxycodone is a synthetic opioid created from a chemical synthesis of an ingredient in the Persian poppy, and it generates a very strong dependence in users. Users frequently become dependent on the drug and develop a need for increasing strength of dosage, even after their pain issues have subsided. Thus, it can be very dangerous and life-destroying for pain patients to treat their symptoms with opioids.

How Can Cannabis Solve the Opioid Crisis?

Medical cannabis use can help pain sufferers relieve pain without making themselves vulnerable to opioid addiction. In fact, some researchers are arguing that cannabis cannot only provide a better solution to pain than opioids but that prescribing cannabis for pain can help solve the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Donald Abrams of the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital told Time Magazine that "If we could use cannabis, which is less addictive and harmful than opioids, to increase the effectiveness of pain treatment, I think it can make a difference during this epidemic of opioid abuse." Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley conducted a survey about combined cannabis and opioid users that found 97 percent of respondents reported using fewer opioids when cannabis was an option. They also found that cannabis created fewer side effects like nausea in comparison to opioids.

Not only is cannabis an effective treatment for chronic pain, it also has another benefit for those who are experiencing opioid addiction. According to The Atlantic, cannabis can be used to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms opioid addicts feel when they attempt to stop using opioids.

Therefore, while the ongoing opioid epidemic is a terrible crisis, there is hope that cannabis may represent a possible solution. Cannabis can be used as an effective substitute for opioids in a pain management program, and can also be used as a treatment for opioid users who are withdrawing from opioids.

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