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With an increasing amount of people addicted to prescription pain pills and heroin use spinning out of control, finding a solution to this epidemic is vital. In the US, heroin use has seen over a 60% increase since 2002, and these numbers simply continue to rise.

This increased use of heroin (which covers almost all demographic groups) is tied closely to prescription pain reliever abuse. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to get your hands on a $10 bag of heroin than it is to find a $20 illegal pill. This has created a vicious cycle for many people, and is a nightmare that can seem impossible to escape.

The Unsettling Statistics of Opioid Addiction

There’s no doubt that addiction to opioids is one of the hardest to beat. Addiction to opioids (including prescription pills and heroin) is quickly destroying lives as prescription medication is handed out like candy. In 2012, healthcare workers in the US wrote out almost 260 million prescriptions for pain pills. This is enough for each adult American to have their very own bottle. On the average, 46 Americans die of each day of opioid overdoses.

According the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is estimated that between 26.4 and 36 million people worldwide abuse opioids. The number of overdoses has quadrupled in America since the turn of the century and some 15 million people around the world have fallen prey to their extremely addictive potential.

Could Medical Marijuana be the Cure?

While numbers like these are certainly shocking, there is hope. In a study published in 2014 in the Journal of the America Medical Association, having access to medical marijuana is associated with significantly lower opioid use. The report stated that “states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

Currently the only medication available for opioid dependency is…more prescription medication. Not only do substances like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone cost up to $800 a month, but they do little more than replace one addiction with another. While they may work, there are safer alternatives available that should be widely available to those who wish to kick their opioid addiction in a different way.

Marijuana has been used for medicine thousands and has been used to treat addiction for over a hundred. In 1969, Tod H. Mikuriya MD wrote the following in his book Marijuana in Medicine:

“Because cannabis did not lead to physical dependence, it was found to be superior to the opiates for a number of therapeutic purposes. Birch, in 1889, reported success in treating opiate and chloral addiction with cannabis, and Mattison in 1891 recommended its use to the young physician, comparing it favorably with the opiates.”

So not only can marijuana treat the pain for which opioids are prescribed, but can also treat the addiction that is often a result of their use. TIME Magazine reported in 1931 that:

“…in spite of the legends, no case of physical, mental or moral degeneration has ever been traced exclusively to marijuana… Because of its non-habit-forming character, doctors have recently been experimenting with the drug as an aid in curing opium addiction.”

Opium, opioids, opiates, or heroin. They’re all the same thing really, and it seems that marijuana could be just the thing to save a population that is caught in their deadly grasp.

What Studies have to Say

While studies on the effects of medical marijuana for addiction to heroin and other opioids have not been widely conducted, there is emerging hope in what studies have shown positive results. While one of the first documented cases goes as far back as 1887, more recent studies are proving what many people have known all along. Marijuana is an excellent aid in helping with the addiction of opioids.

In a 2009 report, a study conducted on lab rats addicted to morphine and opium was conducted with marijuana. In this study conducted by Valerie Dauge of the Laboratory were given 10 mg injections of THC. These injections gradually reduced their dependency and eventually cured it all together.

Addicted to oxy or know someone who is? Marijuana can help. There have been several studies conducted on patients addicted to both Oxy-codone and Oxy-contin given a prescription of 2-4 marijuana “puffs” throughout the day. These studies have shown that the amount of these prescriptions taken was reduced by half when marijuana was used. This in turn, helped them to experience decreased dependency.

 

As medical marijuana continues to become more available and outdated restrictions are lifted, perhaps we will begin to see less addiction to prescription meds and heroin. For many marijuana on its own may be enough to break their habit, while those with more serious addictions may need to use it in conjunction with other drugs. Either way, the potential that medical marijuana holds to help with opioid and heroin abuse should not be taken lightly and could be just the cure that many a troubled soul is seeking.

 

Works Cited

http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/information-sheet/en/

http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2014/prescription-opioid-heroin-abuse

https://patients4medicalmarijuana.wordpress.com/medical-use-of-cannabis-video/marijuana-treats-addiction/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/05/is-weed-the-secret-to-beating-opiate-addiction.html

http://www.theweedblog.com/science-recognizes-cannabis-reduces-withdrawal-symptoms-but-state-laws-still-dont/

http://blog.norml.org/2015/07/14/study-medical-cannabis-access-associated-with-reduced-opioid-abuse/