How Cannabis is Already Replacing Opioids for Pain Management


Lukas Barfield

October 15th, 2018

Policy


It has long been known medical cannabis helps with pain management. From acute sharp short term pain, to chronic, deeper more long lasting pain, multiple studies have shown cannabis can replace opioids for pain management and help suffering patients live more normal lives.

However, as we know, when it comes to cannabis in the United States, it’s never as straight forward as just going to the doctor and picking up a prescription.

Well, that is slowly changing.

As cannabis becomes more main stream in the US, medical cannabis is replacing opioids for pain management. There are thirty states with medical cannabis programs, more than a handful of states with high CBD cannabis laws and eight states with adult use cannabis, opening Cannabinoid medication access to a record number of Americans.

Nowhere else is cannabis replacing opioids for pain management faster than in Florida.

After passing a full plant medical cannabis law in 2016, Florida pain patients have started choosing cannabis over more addictive deadly opiate medications, says Kim Rivers CEO of¬†Trulieve, Florida’s largest medical cannabis provider. True Leaf operates seventeen dispensaries across the state of Florida, and serves 80,000 registered patients. No one else has their finger on the pulse of Florida medical cannabis more than Kim Rivers.

She tells CNBC in a recent interview, “There have been a number of recent studies that have come out that have shown that in states where medical cannabis programs are robust, the number of opiate prescriptions reduces dramatically. We also know from firsthand true stories, which we have on our website every Tuesday, that a number of our patients are transitioning from opioids to medical cannabis very effectively, and it’s a much safer and effective alternative.”

Kim Rivers goes on to say Trulieve will lobby the Florida legislature to make medical cannabis an easier choice for patients with pain management issues.

The study Kim Rivers speaks of is research published by Jama Internal Medicine, which looked at data from Medicare.

The researchers noticed a fourteen percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in states with easy access to medical cannabis. This, they estimate, adds up to about 3.7 million less doses of opiates a day.

That is a lot of pills!

Another study looked at data from Medicaid and found similar results. Other studies have shown encouraging results with a twenty-five percent decrease in opiate overdoses in states with easy access to medical cannabis.

In addition, baby boomers and seniors are using medical cannabis as replacements for opioids for pain management in record numbers. Seniors and boomers are learning that conditions like osteo-arthritis and other painful geriatric diseases are no match for Cannabinoid medicines, despite the higher cost.

Cannabinoids are the unique compounds found in the cannabis plant. The two most common Cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have been shown in multiple studies to be powerful pain relieving compounds. The two compounds work much in the same way by dampening pain receptors throughout the body and reducing inflammation. By attaching to CB1 and CB2 receptors, Cannabinoids can treat pain in different parts of the body.

These receptors make up the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a group of cells that help bring balance to the body. Both compounds were discovered in the 1960’s in Israel, but research into their therapeutic properties has been sparse in the US due to cannabis’ classification as a Schedule One Narcotic, a drug with no known medical use.

For decades patients suffering from pain who wanted to use cannabis had to risk arrest for cannabis possession, or settle for more addictive opioid medications. Now with laws loosening, more and more people are finding medical cannabis can replace opioids for pain management.

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