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Is Medical Marijuana the Answer to the Opioid Crisis?

Recently, the President made it known that he was in favor of supporting congressional efforts to end the federal ban on marijuana.
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Recently, the President made it known that he was in favor of supporting congressional efforts to end the federal ban on marijuana. If this happens, we may finally begin to see large-scale studies on potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. Most of us have heard reports that medical marijuana has helped cancer patients with the effects of chemotherapy, but far too little is known at this point. In fact, a research study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that barely 30% of oncologists who participated in the survey were comfortable in their knowledge and understanding of medical marijuana as a therapy.

One healthcare crisis that would benefit from additional research into the effects of medical marijuana is opioid addiction. Every day, 116 people die from opioid-related drug overdoses. Considering that almost 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, the search for safer treatments takes on even more importance. Researchers at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reported that there is conclusive evidence that chemicals found in the marijuana plant can effectively treat chronic pain. More research needs to be done to fully understand which chemical compounds in marijuana contribute to pain relief, but as an alternative to opioid prescriptions, the potential is well worth further study.

According to a report in JAMA Internal Medicine, states that have relaxed the laws regarding access to medical marijuana have experienced a 14% decrease in opioid prescriptions. This change is significant because of the addictive qualities of opioid medications.

What’s Next

With public sentiment about marijuana use already shifting, the next hurdles include the development of meaningful studies to collect data about the harm and benefits of medical marijuana. Additionally, researchers need to learn more about how the cannabis compounds work so therapeutic uses can be standardized. Currently, what you get from a dispensary in Colorado may be different from one in California. As a pharmaceutical, this is not an acceptable situation, and there is a lot more to be learned before scientists can determine protocols for effective delivery methods, chemical contents, production, and more.

What is your position on the use of medical marijuana? Do you have patients who have medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan? Please consider sharing your thoughts in the comment section below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

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