Opioids are one of the most common forms of chronic pain management. They’re so widely prescribed that in 2012, healthcare providers wrote enough prescriptions (259 million) for every adult in the U.S. to have a bottle of pills.
There is plenty of evidence proving the effectiveness of opioids, but there are also plenty of horror stories that show us what can happen if opioids are misused.
In the United States, there were 47,600 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017. That makes up 68% of all drug overdoses that year. Aside from the risk of death, major organs can become damaged after taking large doses of opioids over a long period of time.
Sleep-disordered breathing, fractures, and constipation are other side effects, among many, of opioid dependency and misuse. Opioid addiction destroys lives and families, as people with addictions begin to put the substance above their loved ones and their responsibilities. This creates social, emotional, and financial challenges for everyone involved.
That’s why more and more people are incorporating alternative pain management options, like cannabis, for their condition.
Some of the most commonly prescribed opioids include:
What Happens When You Mix Opioids And Cannabis?
Cannabis is still a controlled substance in the United States. Because of that, researchers are limited in the amount and kind of research that can be conducted. Studies involving cannabis often don’t qualify for research funding because of its federally illegal status.
This means the research surrounding cannabis’ interaction with other drugs is also limited, but we do know some important things.
Cannabis and opioids both have depressant effects, so we do know mixing the two substances can potentially lower blood pressure and suppress the central nervous system.
Some drugs can affect how other drugs metabolize in our bodies, and with opioids, metabolizing them too quickly can be dangerous.
The Potential Benefits of Combining Opioids and Cannabis
Research shows mixing opioids and cannabis together can be more effective in managing chronic pain than just opioids or cannabis alone. This study found combining the two could even reduce the risk of dependency without causing cognitive problems.
Chronic pain is not rare. An estimated 50 million Americans deal with chronic pain every single day. Up to 90% of patients in state-level medical cannabis programs list chronic pain as their qualifying condition. It is a debilitating quality of life, and chronic pain has been associated with higher rates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and completed suicides.
Combining opioids with cannabis should only be done under the direct care of a healthcare professional. Heally partners with physicians who are knowledgeable about cannabis and its potential side effects. To create a safe treatment protocol combining cannabis and opioids, book an appointment with us.
How Cannabis Might Help Opioid Use Disorder
Cannabis is currently not an approved form of treatment for opioid use disorder. However, research suggests it might be effective. This study found individuals who were currently using cannabis at the time of the study, decreased their use of opioids by 40-60%. Participants also report preferring cannabis over opioids.
Currently, the most common treatments for opioid use disorder is methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. Methadone prevents withdrawal symptoms that come with stopping methadone and reduces cravings. Buprenorphine blocks the effects of other opioids and reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone (not to be confused with naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose) is a prescription medication that comes in pill or injectable formats.
One randomized clinical trial with 42 participants found CBD might be effective in treating opioid use disorder. Each of the participants received one of two different CBD medication doses or a placebo once daily for three days. Those who received CBD reported fewer cravings than individuals who received the placebo.
These findings of CBD have been discovered in other studies, too. Hemp-derived CBD is a popular choice because it doesn’t cause psychotropic effects. It can also be purchased online without a prescription in most U.S. states.
Abstinence-based protocols (meaning removing opioids entirely and not replacing them with anything) are statistically ineffective. 85% of individuals relapse after treatment begins. It’s becoming more common for cannabis to be used as a harm reduction tool in treatment settings.
Patients in these studies reported fewer side effects with cannabis than opioids and a better quality of life in general.
Talk With a Doctor
Cannabis is legal for medical purposes in 38 states and D.C. Patients with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, depression, insomnia, and more experience relief from cannabis-assisted therapy. The right dosage and product can drastically improve your quality of life.
Not sure where to start? Our doctors can help you get your medical cannabis card and find the perfect product and dosage for you. You can choose to visit with a provider in person or online. Be prepared to bring a list of your current medications and past medical history, so your healthcare provider can develop the right treatment plan.
To get started, fill out our online contact form. We’ll be in touch soon!