As the opioid epidemic nears record heights across America, medical marijuana is gaining popularity as a pain medication. Now, medical marijuana is being used in detox protocols, substituted for narcotics that help taper off heroin and other opioids.
Medical Marijuana Being Used in Detox Protocols
Medical marijuana is being used in detox protocols to reduce withdrawal symptoms and reduce relapse rates. A study published by Columbia University in 2015 showed patients given a form of THC during detox had less severe withdrawal symptoms. Reducing those symptoms is key to patients completing treatment. Severe withdrawal symptoms often lead to relapse without medical intervention. The concept of using medical marijuana is an effort to lower narcotic use and dependence, during and after recovery treatment. The study showed medical marijuana not only reduces relapse, but reduces the more troublesome long-term effect of opioids, such as insomnia and anxiety.
Opioids Versus Medical Marijuana Being Used in Detox Protocols
Until recently, the only intervention for withdrawal symptoms has been other opioids like Suboxone or Methandone. These drugs are still opioids and very expensive. Methadone can only be given daily at a clinic, costing patients time and resources to get help. Suboxone is available in a prescription for home use if a patient qualifies.
Aside from the difficulty in getting the opioid treatment for opioid dependence, the fact remains the person is not clean and sober. He or she depends still on another drug that is addictive. Instead of tapering from the opioid to help end addiction, many people stay on the drug for life. Long-term opioid use can damage body organs and be a burden financially.
Now, medical marijuana is being used in detox protocols, substituted for narcotics. Studies like the Columbia University study show moderate medical marijuana use increases the number of people who stay in treatment. Another incentive is states with medical marijuana laws are seeing less opioid overdose deaths.
Battling the Stigma of Medical Marijuana
Marijuana has long been viewed a gateway drug, leading to narcotic use and addiction. Medical marijuana is challenging this perception by studies showing pot is helping people stay off narcotics. But it may be some time before treatment centers offer medical marijuana as a treatment choice. Interestingly, while possible to experience a hangover with marijuana, there are no reports of marijuana overdose deaths. The only deaths with marijuana as the only drug involved are in fatal car accidents.
But narcotics claim lives daily. The CDC estimated 46 people die every day from prescription painkillers. This is only the number of overdose deaths. The number grows larger if the number of failed organs and related diseases, plus traffic accidents are taken into consideration. These numbers are not likely to reduce without laws and treatment practices changing too.
Medical Marijuana Used in Detox Protocols, substituted for Narcotics Massachusetts Case Study
Massachusetts declared a Public Health Emergency in 2014 due to opioid-related deaths. To bring the epidemic under control, hundreds of opioid-dependent people are receiving medical marijuana, substituted for narcotics.
Dr. Gary Witman treated 80 opioid-dependent patients with medical marijuana. After a one month tapering plan, over ¾ of those patients are free of opioid use for chronic pain and anxiety. He says 15 patients have weaned off narcotics without relapse. He believes medical marijuana is a safer alternative to narcotics.
Dr. Harold Altvater also prescribes medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids. He defends marijuana as a safer drug than other opioids. Overdose deaths are non-existent with medical marijuana and will reduce the casualties in Massachusetts.
While much debate of marijuana as a gateway drug exists, for those already addicted to opioids, marijuana seems to be an exit drug, with less harmful side-effects.
Medical Marijuana Used in Detox Protocols, Substituted for Narcotics Maine Case Study
Maine allows medical marijuana use for certain conditions. Advocates of medical marijuana substituted for narcotics are lobbying for opioid and heroin addiction to be added to the list of conditions for prescribing pot. While it may take time to see the law change, several doctors are prescribing now.
One woman was battling an opioid addiction due to chronic pain. She wanted to stop because she could not work while on the narcotics. It was impacting her life and those of her children. Unable to quit cold-turkey due to acute withdrawal symptoms, she used marijuana. In 2013, she began medical marijuana treatment and has not relapsed on opioids. Now she enjoys a full life with her family and volunteer work.
While not part of a scientific study, results like these are hard to ignore during an epidemic. Many doctors in Maine are acting by prescribing medical marijuana until a better treatment is found.
Medical Marijuana Used in Detox Protocols, substituted for Narcotics in Pennsylvania Case Study
Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana during a time opioids have become the number one killer in the state. Senator Mike Vereb, a Republican, states, “Opioid abuse has no party, has no color, has no religion. Let’s face it, that’s the killer. What we’re doing today is the healer.”
Caution Expressed by Harvard Medical School Doctor When Medical Marijuana is Substituted for Narcotics
Harvard Medical School Doctor, Kevin Hill, agrees there may be limited benefit for using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. But he still urges caution to doctors prescribing the drug.
“If you are thinking about using cannabis as opposed to using opioids for chronic pain, then I do think the evidence does support it,” he told CBS News. “However, I think one place where sometimes cannabis advocates go too far is when they talk about using cannabis to treat opioid addiction.”
Law Enforcement and Health Care Agencies Agree Caution Is Necessary
While medical marijuana may show merit for treating chronic pain and other conditions, wide use of the drug needs to be regulated. Facts of marijuana use and negative effects must be considered.
- Teenagers who use marijuana have decreased capacity for learning. Those who use marijuana between years 18-38 often show an 8 point drop in IQ.
- Not only is learning affected, but focused awareness and response is decreased resulting in accidents. Marijuana is the second leading cause of motor vehicle accidents with alcohol being the first.
- While marijuana is not considered a cause of crime, 40% of adult males arrested for crime test positive for the drug.
With statistics like these, one must stop to consider the negative effects of widespread marijuana use. While marijuana may offer relief, what stress will its use put on law enforcement agencies and the healthcare system?
Medical Marijuana and Opioid Addiction Treatment
Despite the possible benefits of opioid and medical marijuana treatment, the best medicine is health and abstinence. Chronic pain can be treated without narcotics and pot with a holistic care plan. Alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga, and mindfulness can manage and decrease chronic pain.
Looking for Alternatives to Narcotics and Medical Marijuana?
While there may be benefit to medical marijuana being used in detox protocols, substituted for narcotics, the best treatment is abstinence. For help to detox and becoming drug-free, contact Northlake Recovery in Southern Florida. Addiction specialists will help you enroll in the best detox program for you. Call (561)-770-6616 now!