Medical Hashish: An Antidote to the Opioid Epidemic?

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Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH

Naturopathic Perspective

Within the absence of some fundamental statistics, the importance of the opioid epidemic in the USA might be simply underappreciated. In 2015, the latest 12 months for which the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) has printed knowledge, over 2 million People aged 12 years or older had a substance use dysfunction involving prescription pain-relievers. This estimate will increase to 2.5 million when non-prescription opioids are included.1

Why would non-prescription opioids be included? Nearly 80% of heroin customers report having used prescription opioids earlier than initiating heroin use.2 And infrequently these people have their opioid prescriptions discontinued by involved physicians after dependence has developed. In a 2014 survey, 94% of respondents reported that they determined to make use of heroin as a result of prescription opioids had been “far costlier and tougher to acquire.”three

In 2015, greater than a thousand People had been handled in emergency departments every day throughout the nation for misusing prescription opioids. That’s greater than 365 000 visits for the 12 months. Dying by a prescription drug is the #1 reason behind unintentional demise in the USA.four In 2015, drug overdoses accounted for 52 404 deaths. Greater than 63% concerned an opioid, and greater than 15 000 of those deaths concerned a prescription opioid.5 Put one other means, 91 People died every day from an opioid overdose in 2015, 44 of whom died from a prescription opoid.1 Within the 17-year interval from 1999-2015, the opioid overdose mortality price, and gross sales of prescription opioids, elevated by 500%, whereas the prevalence of People reporting persistent ache remained steady.6,7

In an effort to handle this problem, the CDC issued new tips for opioid prescribing in March of this 12 months.eight

So, what does this should do with hashish?

Medical Hashish

In a complete 2017 report entitled “The Well being Results of Hashish and Cannabinoids: The Present State of Proof and Suggestions for Analysis,” the Well being and Drugs Division of the Nationwide Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Drugs acknowledged, “There’s conclusive or substantial proof that hashish or cannabinoids are efficient…for the therapy of persistent ache in adults.”9

In accordance with a mess of surveys, the commonest medical purpose for utilizing hashish or cannabinoids (compounds contained within the hashish plant) is persistent ache.10,11 Survey respondents report that hashish use is an efficient technique of managing their ache, each as a solo remedy10 and as an adjunctive remedy when mixed with opioids.12,13 Additionally they report substituting hashish for prescription opioids11,14,15 and lowering their dose of opioids, thereby experiencing a discount within the related unwanted effects whereas additionally reporting the next high quality of life.13,15

Ecologic knowledge provides a distinct perspective with the same conclusion. Research utilizing state-level knowledge counsel that fewer opioids are prescribed in states with authorized entry to medical hashish. A research printed within the journal Well being Affairs in 2016, utilizing knowledge from Medicare Half D, discovered that implementing an efficient medical hashish legislation led to a discount of 1826 each day doses of opioids stuffed per doctor per 12 months from 2010 to 2013.16 This discount in prescribing patterns was subsequently corroborated by the identical authors in 2017, utilizing Medicaid knowledge from 2007 to 2014.17 The authors speculated financial savings of $1.01 billion is perhaps realized in 2014 if all US states had medical marijuana legal guidelines. (It must be famous that the price of the hashish was not included within the evaluation.) A distinct research discovered 23% and 13% fewer opioid abuse-related and opioid overdose-related hospitalizations, respectively, in states with authorized entry.18 Lastly, a 3rd research confirmed that the opioid mortality price was virtually 25% decrease in states with authorized entry to medical hashish.19 This diminished price seems to proceed to say no in years subsequent to the passage of medical hashish legal guidelines.

Human medical trial knowledge additionally counsel that cannabinoids are efficient ache relievers,20,9,21 and that additive analgesia is achieved when cannabinoids are mixed with opioids.22 An open-label research printed in 2016 discovered that people with treatment-resistant persistent ache reported enhancements in ache and pain-related quality-of-life scores with the addition of cannabinoids to their opioid routine.12 Forty-four p.c of topics within the research discontinued their opioids completely. Different research have demonstrated that cannabinoids might delay or stop the event of opioid tolerance and rekindle opioid analgesia after a previous dosage has grow to be ineffective.

As well as, cannabinoids are extraordinarily protected. In 2015, greater than 33 000 People died of an opioid overdose. The quantity of people that died that 12 months of a hashish overdose was…zero. A scientific overview of 31 research (23 randomized managed trials and eight observational research) discovered that 96.6% of opposed results had been “not critical.”23 This security profile is clearly superior to that of opioids, in addition to the medicine used to deal with opioid addition (eg, methadone, buprenorphine). Respiratory suppression, the commonest reason behind opioid overdose demise,24 shouldn’t be a threat related to high-dose hashish use as a result of there are few cannabinoid receptors positioned within the cardio-respiratory facilities of the brainstem.25,26 Moreover, concurrent use of cannabinoids and opioids doesn’t seem to extend the chance of significant opposed results or demise when in comparison with utilizing opioids alone.27 And, in contrast to opioid withdrawal, hashish withdrawal is often delicate, brief in length, and self-limited.28 Most individuals who cease utilizing cannabinoids accomplish that with out formal therapy.

Cannabinoids for Opioid Withdrawal

Anecdotal proof means that cannabinoids might successfully deal with signs of opioid withdrawal (eg, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, muscle spasms, nervousness, agitation, restlessness, insomnia). Cannabidiol (CBD), particularly, might maintain the best potential in treating opioid use problems resulting from its non-rewarding and anxiolytic results. Nervousness is likely one of the key drivers of habit and relapse, and CBD has been proven to scale back nervousness in medical trials involving wholesome topics and people with social nervousness problems.29

Preclinical experimental fashions have proven that CBD reduces the rewarding properties of opioids and reduces heroin-seeking habits.30,31 A small double-blind pilot research of opioid-dependent people discovered single dose of CBD led to a lower usually craving 24 hours later. This impact persevered 7 days after the final therapy. Reductions in nervousness had been additionally noticed.31 Clearly, extra medical trials are wanted, however these knowledge counsel a believable function for CBD and maybe different cannabinoids within the therapy of opioid use problems.


The morbidity and mortality related to the present opioid epidemic is staggering: 2.5 million People in 2015 had been identified with a substance-use dysfunction involving an opioid, and over 33 000 People died of an opioid overdose in that very same 12 months. This epidemic is a fancy downside requiring a wide range of options. Whereas widespread adoption of hashish for ache administration isn’t any silver bullet, it’s an rising remedy supported by completely different methodologies in scientific analysis, with extra on the way in which. This analysis not solely helps its efficacy as an analgesic, but in addition its security, particularly when in comparison with opioids and even non-opioid pharmacological medicines. It’s completely doable that this plant, which has lengthy been deemed a menace to public well being, would possibly truly be an necessary a part of the answer to some of the urgent public well being crises of our time.


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Picture Copyright: <a href=’’>jirkaejc / 123RF Inventory Photograph</a>

Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH, is a licensed naturopathic physician, peer-reviewed medical researcher, and business marketing consultant. After incomes his ND diploma from Bastyr College in Seattle, WA, Dr Corroon accomplished 2 years of residency on the Bastyr Heart for Pure Well being. He’s a member of the Society of Hashish Clinicians and is licensed by their Scientific Cannabinoid Drugs program; he additionally accomplished the U of WA Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute coaching on Medicinal Hashish and Power Ache. Dr Corroon is Medical Director on the Heart for Medical Hashish Training in San Diego, CA, and is dedicated to investigating the necessary medical and public well being questions ensuing from the broadening acceptance of hashish in society.

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