The fact that people suffering from wasting diseases, cancer, depression, anxiety and pain, successfully use the plant in different forms to improve quality of life, yet it's still federally considered a schedule I drug (no medical use), should tell you there's a clear agenda.
The Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are easily the biggest culprit behind addiction and accidental overdose. In fact, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, of the 20.5 million Americans, whom are 12 or older and have a substance use disorder, 2 million of those individuals were addicted to some form of prescription pain killer (1).
Just this past week, our President signed an executive order to combat this terrible issue in our country, yet again fails to recognize the safe and potential alternative to the opioid epidemic: Marijuana.
The stigma against marijuana is one that has always baffled me, considering that many of the opposition has no issue with getting black out drunk. It's quite clear, regardless of what many think (including our elected officials) that marijuana does in fact have therapeutic benefit.
Consider that many pharmaceutical companies have synthesized THC analogue medicines, to mimic the effects of marijuana, while slipping past the apparent stigma of the plant itself. The fact that people suffering from wasting diseases, cancer, depression, anxiety and pain, successfully use the plant in different forms to improve quality of life, yet it's still federally considered a schedule I drug (no medical use), should tell you there's a clear agenda.
Fortunately, research is being done and eventually the evidence will overcome this ridiculous stigma.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate how the use of Medical Cannabis (MC) can potentially serve as a safe alternative to regular opioid use. Further, the study was to observe the relative effect that Medical Cannabis has on reducing opioid usage, despite addiction.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Acetaminophen, the active pain killer ingredient in Tylenol, sends upwards of 78,000 Americans to the emergency room, each year. Not to mention, it's one of the leading culprits behind acute liver failure. Still want your Excedrin after a night of drinking?
Why Study This
Addiction is terrible and many times out of the individual's control. The truth is, those who aren't or who have never been addicted to a substance, don't understand the repercussions of being a part of the endless loop of craving and satisfaction.
Addiction isn't a lack of will power and it's certainly not always the individuals fault. With addiction comes rationalization and self-hate. To be bound by the grips of a substance, of which you don't enjoy despite needing it is a terrible situation.
Further, when it comes to opiate addiction, many times it's at the recommendation of a licensed professional in power. After which, the patient becomes hopelessly addicted to such powerful substances that literally change how the brain functions. I've seen opiate addiction first hand, and I myself have struggled with addiction. It's a terrible situation to be in and removing yourself from it, is often seemingly impossible.
Even apart from opiates, pharmaceutical pain killers are dangerous. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Acetaminophen, the active pain killer ingredient in Tylenol, sends upwards of 78,000 Americans to the emergency room, each year. Not to mention, it's one of the leading culprits behind acute liver failure. Still want your Excedrine after a night of drinking? (2, 3).
As a personal anecdote, I suffer from a Migraine Disorder. I'm also habitually addicted to Caffeine because of it (caffeine is an ingredient which reduces migraine symptoms or prevents them). When I take Excedrin, I'm not taking 1-2. I'm taking 4-6 pills at a time. Even then, the pain doesn't subside, I just get high (and not in a good way).
The need for safe, natural alternatives for pain management is more important than ever. Further, the need for substituting highly active and dangerous substances with the same is incredibly valuable.
Lastly, this research stands in the face of the ignorance our elected officials are choosing to stand behind. Further, this isn't just my opinion. Base don the information you'll read, it will be quite clear to you that we've entered a period of blatant disregard for medical practice, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The findings of this study were based on surveys taken by 1513 participants, whom were members of medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine (66.1%), Vermont (24.3) and Rhode Island (9.7%).
These were individuals whom experience chronic pain in some fashion (as this would be a requirement for a medical cannabis card). From here, the survey was dependent on the participants use of opiates. For example, if the participant answered yes to regularly taking opiate pain medications, they would then move on to questions such as "Have you noticed a change in opiate usage since you began using medical cannabis, etc." Further, this was then continued to encompass other potential drug usage, such as benzodiazepines (sleep) and other related drugs that often provide symptom relief for depression and migraine.
Essentially, the participants were asked questions about their drug usage, with relation to certain issues (pain, depression, insomnia, migraine) and then were surveyed to determine how much LESS these individuals used prescription pharmaceuticals, after beginning to use medical cannabis. I.E. Is Marijuana a reasonable substitute for powerful pharmaceuticals.
Figure 1. Percent of respondents with a reduction in opioid pain medications, agents for anxiety, migraine, drugs to improve sleep, alcohol consumption, and antidepressants. Total N that regularly used each group of drugs is in parentheses. Lower number on each bar is the % that reduced use ‘a lot’. Upper number is the total that reduced use. ap ⩽ 0.0001 versus antidepressants. bp ⩽ 0.0005 versus alcohol.
With regards to subjects using opioid medications, an astounding 76.7% of responders indicated that they reduced opiate use as a result of using Medical Cannabis instead. Further, over 40% of those responders indicated drastic reductions of opiate use.
Further, as you can see in the graph above, all other subsets of pain showed a significant reduction of opiate usage as a result. If we were to scale the benefit observed by this study to the American Population whom is addicted to opiates, we'd see a significant reduction of opioid usage in 1.52 million of the 2 million people addicted.
If that doesn't convince you, nothing will. If you want an answer to the opioid epidemic, here it is.
Subject Perception Of Cannabis
Apart from simply making it public knowledge that cannabis is both safe and effective, we also have to deal with how people perceive its use. Even in a world where people regularly consume alcohol, which is by and large dangerous, while providing almost zero medical benefit, marijuana is surrounded with stigma and fear. These are the most common keywords being used by participants with relation the questions of what you like most (a) and least (b) with relation to medical cannabis usage:
Based on many of the keywords being highlighted (larger words means they were used most often when responding), it's clear that many of the negative associations with medical cannabis aren't due to danger or negative side effects, but rather stigmas surrounding the plant, such as stigma itself, getting high, the smell and even cost.
Essentially, apart from possible financial agendas, it's quite possible that many of the stigmas revolving around marijuana are not necessarily due to symptom, but rather a collective fear and uncertainty around the idea of smoking marijuana. The fact that people are being prescribed opiates (apart from their pain relieving effect, which does exist), rather than potentially exploring the therapeutic benefit of cannabis due to stigma should show you the shift that needs to occur with our thinking on the substance.
1. This isn't just a cry to get high.
Many people's arguments revolving avoiding cannabis use for pain relief is this idea that the patient just "wants to get high." That may be the case, but assuredly it's not the only reason. Further, if they do want to "get high" is that actually a bad thing? Do you view intoxication by alcohol in a negative light because the person just "wants to get drunk?" Just because it is a substance with psychoactive effects, doesn't mean it isn't useful.
As you can see above, the benefits extend further than just getting high.
2. We need more real research.
This type of information is certainly valuable. They examined real world people who ahve stopped using opiates at the hand of marijuana.
What we need is real research to determine if marijuana can be used as a first line of defense against pain. Realistically, it would make sense to curtail opiate prescription and delegate their use to severe cases, which require the power that opiates provide. It's quite possible that marijuana could be a reasonable substitute for less urgent pain conditions, potentially reducing the risk of patients contracting irreversible addiction that can't be beat.
We collectively need to put this unnecessary stigma behind us so we can study it to the extent we need.
Why This Should Matter To You
It should matter because there is an opioid epidemic, with a potential, real solution that is being ignored. Opioid (and any other) addiction is serious and it gets ignored by those who haven't experienced its grips. Medical Cannabis does in fact have therapeutic use and should be explored as an alternative for pain relief. It's important for us to constantly re-evaluate sentiments we hold dear, especially when avoiding those sentiments could mean a better quality of life for many.