To understand prescription painkillers you need to understand the term “opioid.” It refers to any substance that produces opium-like effects in users. Opioids include opiates like morphine, codeine, and thebaine; semi-synthetic opioids like heroin, hydrocodone, and oxycodone; and synthetic opioids like fentanyl and methadone.
Opioids, whether taken recreationally or as a prescription from a doctor, are known for being incredibly addictive. These addictions can be fatal as they too often leave addicts vulnerable to deadly overdoses.
Prescription Painkiller (Opioid) Dependency
For this reason, there is very often a real sense of urgency in many addicts to end an opioid dependency. And, somewhat counterintuitively for the anti-pot crowd, cannabis has emerged as one of the best tools for helping people kick an opioid addiction.
Take Tony O’Neill for example. O’Neill published his personal account of working to recover from opioid addiction on reset.me. Here’s what he had to say about his experience:
“Telling people my story of recovery from addiction has always proved controversial. It’s a story that’s echoed by the experiences of countless others, but is usually airbrushed out of mainstream addiction narratives: I emerged from nearly 10 years of addiction to cocaine and heroin without sticking to a 12-Step program and without becoming totally abstinent from all drugs—in fact, using marijuana was a key part of my success.”
An article published by The Daily Beast tells a similar story.
Kevin, who’d been addicted to heroin for six years “used marijuana to complete his final detox.” He said that cannabis was the key to managing the pains of withdrawal so that he could overcome his addiction.
There are countless other anecdotes that we could add to Tony’s and Kevin’s. The sheer number of people who have been able to kick an opioid addiction with the help of cannabis is too large to include in any single article.
Perhaps this is why an online support group for people working through opioid addictions simply states that “many opiate abusers have greatly benefited from the use of marijuana for opiate withdrawal symptoms.”
The site ultimately concludes that “as far as natural remedies go, marijuana ranks high on the list of the most powerful withdrawal aids. Marijuana has been reported to ameliorate withdrawal syndrome by countless individuals.”
But we don’t have to rely only on anecdotes to back up the claim that cannabis can be an incredibly powerful tool in combatting opioid addiction.
A Growing Body Of Scientific Evidence
There is a growing body of scientific evidence to back up the anecdotal claim that access to and regular use of marijuana can be a key factor in decreasing opioid addiction and opioid-related overdoses.
In 2014, The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that reported: “states with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8 percent lower average annual opioid overdose death rate compared to states without such laws.”
And this past fall, a group of researchers in Canada published a report with similar conclusions.
“Opioids are killing people right now,” the study’s lead researcher summarized. “There is no association with cannabis and mortality, and yet North America is in the midst of, really, what is a public-health emergency associated to opioid overdose deaths.”
The study ultimately concluded that cannabis is a far superior form of treatment for a number of health issues than continuing to rely on opioids.
Taken together, it seems increasingly clear that marijuana should be taken seriously as a powerful tool for getting people off an opioid addiction, as well as an effective method for helping people avoid these types of addictions in the first place.