There’s no denying that today’s common opiates – morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and others – are often efficient at managing pain.
However, there’s an epidemic of abuse around the world, and for many people, these medications are doing more harm than good. Medical cannabis is a viable alternative for many different reasons, but the lessened potential for abuse and fewer side effects top the list.
An opioid is a substance that is derived from the poppy plant, which is used to make narcotic painkillers. These drugs are very, very common, and they help patients manage their pain effectively when used properly and for short periods of time. Doctors prescribe them for post-surgical pain, the treatment of pain after an accident or injury, and in some cases, even the treatment of chronic pain.
Opioids are addictive and can be harmful to the liver. They also often cause significant side effects like upset stomach, sleepiness, and a general feeling of being intoxicated.
Why Is Medical Cannabis Better?
Cannabis is not an opioid. In fact, it prevents and treats pain in a completely different way. Whereas an opioid blocks pain signals to your brain, cannabis works by stimulating the release of endorphins, which can overwhelm pain signals in many cases. Cannabis can also act as a muscle relaxer by dilating blood vessels and reducing inflammation that can cause widespread pain.
Last year, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, focused on 28 different studies of the use of cannabis for those dealing with chronic pain. They concluded that 30% more patients experienced significant pain relief with cannabis than with a placebo.
Some of the studies they reviewed also showed that cannabis can help patients deal with the upset stomach often caused by prescription painkillers and even the withdrawal from those painkillers.
Cannabis Can Even Prevent Opioid Dependence
Back in 2012, the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs published a study showing that marijuana prevented the development of opioid tolerance. This simply means that patients taking narcotics who also used cannabis were able to use smaller amounts of narcotic pain relief over longer periods of time without hindering the efficacy of those narcotics.
There is also research to suggest that in states with legal medical marijuana dispensaries, admission to medical facilities due to substance abuse has declined by 15% to 35% depending on the state. Opioid overdoses have decreased by an average of almost 25% in all states where medical marijuana is legal, too.