Medical Hashish: An Antidote to the Opioid Epidemic?

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Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH

Naturopathic Perspective

Within the absence of some primary statistics, the importance of the opioid epidemic in the USA may be simply underappreciated. In 2015, the latest yr for which the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) has printed information, over 2 million Individuals 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 more durable to acquire.”three

In 2015, greater than a thousand Individuals had been handled in emergency departments every day throughout the nation for misusing prescription opioids. That’s greater than 365 000 visits for the yr. Loss of life by a prescription drug is the #1 reason for unintended 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 method, 91 Individuals 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 fee, and gross sales of prescription opioids, elevated by 500%, whereas the prevalence of Individuals reporting persistent ache remained secure.6,7

In an effort to handle this concern, the CDC issued new tips for opioid prescribing in March of this yr.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 Medication Division of the Nationwide Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medication said, “There may be conclusive or substantial proof that hashish or cannabinoids are efficient…for the remedy of persistent ache in adults.”9

In accordance with a large number of surveys, the most typical 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 decreasing their dose of opioids, thereby experiencing a discount within the related uncomfortable side effects whereas additionally reporting the next high quality of life.13,15

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

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Human medical trial information additionally recommend 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 examine 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 % of topics within the examine discontinued their opioids solely. Different research have demonstrated that cannabinoids might delay or forestall the event of opioid tolerance and rekindle opioid analgesia after a previous dosage has grow to be ineffective.

As well as, cannabinoids are extraordinarily secure. In 2015, greater than 33 000 Individuals died of an opioid overdose. The quantity of people that died that yr of a hashish overdose was…zero. A scientific assessment 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 most typical reason for opioid overdose demise,24 is just not a danger 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 great opposed results or demise when in comparison with utilizing opioids alone.27 And, not like opioid withdrawal, hashish withdrawal is usually gentle, brief in length, and self-limited.28 Most individuals who cease utilizing cannabinoids achieve this with out formal remedy.

Cannabinoids for Opioid Withdrawal

Anecdotal proof means that cannabinoids might successfully deal with signs of opioid withdrawal (eg, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, muscle spasms, anxiousness, agitation, restlessness, insomnia). Cannabidiol (CBD), specifically, might maintain the best potential in treating opioid use issues as a consequence of its non-rewarding and anxiolytic results. Nervousness is without doubt one of the key drivers of habit and relapse, and CBD has been proven to cut back anxiousness in medical trials involving wholesome topics and people with social anxiousness issues.29

Preclinical experimental fashions have proven that CBD reduces the rewarding properties of opioids and reduces heroin-seeking conduct.30,31 A small double-blind pilot examine of opioid-dependent people discovered single dose of CBD led to a lower typically craving 24 hours later. This impact endured 7 days after the final remedy. Reductions in anxiousness had been additionally noticed.31 Clearly, extra medical trials are wanted, however these information recommend a believable position for CBD and maybe different cannabinoids within the remedy of opioid use issues.

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The morbidity and mortality related to the present opioid epidemic is staggering: 2.5 million Individuals in 2015 had been recognized with a substance-use dysfunction involving an opioid, and over 33 000 Individuals died of an opioid overdose in that very same yr. This epidemic is a fancy drawback requiring quite a lot of options. Whereas widespread adoption of hashish for ache administration isn’t any silver bullet, it’s an rising remedy supported by totally different methodologies in scientific analysis, with extra on the way in which. This analysis not solely helps its efficacy as an analgesic, but additionally its security, particularly when in comparison with opioids and even non-opioid pharmacological drugs. It’s solely potential that this plant, which has lengthy been deemed a risk to public well being, may truly be an essential a part of the answer to one of the crucial urgent public well being crises of our time.


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Jamie Corroon, ND, MPH, is a licensed naturopathic physician, peer-reviewed medical researcher, and business advisor. After incomes his ND diploma from Bastyr College in Seattle, WA, Dr Corroon accomplished 2 years of residency on the Bastyr Middle for Pure Well being. He’s a member of the Society of Hashish Clinicians and is licensed by their Medical Cannabinoid Medication 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 Middle for Medical Hashish Training in San Diego, CA, and is dedicated to investigating the essential medical and public well being questions ensuing from the broadening acceptance of hashish in society.

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