Prescription drugs have garnered a status for themselves over the years. So much so, that none of us are the biggest fans of being prescribed any. While quite effective for their purpose of use, they come with their own set of side effects and dependency issues.
So, what’s another route we can take to avoid these effects?
Medical marijuana has, in the past decade, been related with having opioid-like effects but with milder negative associations. In other words, MMJ use helps in relieving pain, and has a relaxing effect without extremely strong side effects. This is why a majority of patients who have been introduced to both opioids and marijuana prefer substituting medications with the latter. With a California MMJ card, consumers can easily get access to a variety of products and doses that suit their purpose the best.
What are Opioids and Why Do We Need to Substitute Them?
Opioids are a wide range of poppy-sourced substances that interact with the opioid receptors in the brain to create pain-relieving effects. These can be both illicit drugs like heroin or prescription medication like OxyContin and Vicodin.
In this article, our focus will remain on prescribed opioids and not illegal substances.
If you’ve ever seen someone consume a prescribed medication of this sort, you’re probably familiar with the side effects that follow along. These could be:
- Addiction and Dependency
- Sedation and Dizziness
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Respiratory Depression
These side effects have made patients look out for better alternatives, trying their hands at over the counter medications, other supplements and natural alternatives like hemp sourced cannabis.
But can Cannabis be a good substitute for opioids? How effective can it be? Let’s find out!
Here’s What Research Tells Us!
Patients, in their self reports, explain how the herb has benefited them.
In a survey of 2897 participants, thirty percent were found to be using opioid based medication. Sixty one percent of them also reported combining cannabis with their medications. The following were common statements from a majority of patients:
- Cannabis use reduced their opioid consumption
- Opioid has stronger and unwanted side effects like nausea and constipation.
- Cannabis has milder and tolerable side effects
- Taking cannabis by itself was a more effective treatment
- Cannabis provides the same amount of pain relief as opioids
The majority agreed that they would prefer cannabis over opioid prescriptions if it was more easily available.
Medical Cannabis: A Lesser of Two Evils?
We’re not saying marijuana is without side effects. Consistent use of the herb can lead to unwanted changes in appetite, weight and sleep cycle, nausea and vomiting and make consumers lethargic. Consumption over time also makes users immune to the effects, requiring higher and stronger doses.
Yet, the herb has milder side effects when compared to opioids. Marijuana bought with a California MMJ card is recommended by licensed doctors to treat or support the treatment of multiple chronic illnesses, mental disorders as well as combating substance abuse.
- According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14,000 people died of an opioid overdose. There have been no reports of similar cases with marijuana overdoses.
- Higher CBD concentration in cannabis products has greater therapeutic effects, targeting opioid use disorder.
- Cannabis is not associated with being addictive as long as the THC concentrations are in control.
Things to Remember Before Substituting Opioids With Cannabis
Cannabis is a safer bet, that’s for sure. But even then, there are a few things every patient should keep in mind before accessing medical doses of the herb with a California MMJ card.
Can be Psychoactive
Cannabis can be both psychoactive and not, depending on the type of product you’re consuming. Any cannabis derived substance with high Delta 9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration can lead to a ‘high’. Just like other illicit substances, this too can lead to hallucinations, cognitive impairment and if the patient is dealing with depression or anxiety, it can elevate the symptoms.
It is the other cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as CBD, CBN, CBG, etc., combined with different terpenes and flavonoids that create the non-intoxicating entourage effect that’s the most beneficial.
So, if you’re thinking about replacing or combining your medication with cannabis, what matters is the type of product you’re using. Don’t just jump onto another habit forming substitution but one that can help reduce your consumption of opioids without leading to new dependencies.
Can Negatively Interact
There are multiple patients that prefer consuming cannabis with opioids rather than completely eliminating the latter. In multiple cases, this has led to the reduced consumption of opioids over time and less dependency-like symptoms.
Sounds like a good idea, right? We wish it was this simple.
While it is true that using both substances in conjunction can improve quality of life and reduce consumption at the same time, these products can also interact negatively.
Cannabis doesn’t sit well with every prescription drug out there so a doctor’s consultation is imperative.
Is not a Medication
Cannabis has been legalized by the state for medical use but at the federal level, the government has not accepted cannabis as a medical substitute. In other words, cannabis is not a medication. It cannot be prescribed (only recommended) by physicians and is usually used as a last resort.
If a patient stops responding to the medication being prescribed or responds negatively, doctors are more prone to recommend cannabis use.
In cases of opioid misuse or addiction, doctors may recommend using smaller doses of medication along with the herb.
Not Backed by Extensive Research
Yes, it’s true.
Even though we’ve based our statements on research that has been conducted, there still isn’t enough to back these claims.
We’re still unsure of how dangerous higher doses over longer periods can be. How effective cannabis is as a substitute for opioids. All we truly know is based on anecdotal evidence as opposed to research-based proof.
Cannabis and Non-Opioid Based Medication
The effects of cannabis don’t just hold true for opioids but all pain-relieving medications. Some of these effects are:
- Regular use of cannabis helps reduce the consumption of non-opioid medication
- A majority of patients introduced to both claim that they’d prefer substituting their medication with cannabis
- The herb has also proven to have milder side effects that patients find bearable as opposed to other medications and drugs.
With a medical marijuana card, patients can find good quality and high potency marijuana products that can act as good substitutes for opioids.