Advocates argue a growing body of scientific literature supports the idea, pointing to a study in the Journal of Pain this year that found chronic pain sufferers significantly reduced their opioid use when taking medical cannabis. And a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found cannabis can be effective in treating chronic pain and other ailments.
But the research falls short of concluding marijuana helps wean people off opioids – Vicodin, Oxycontin and related painkillers – and heroin, and many medical professionals say it’s not enough for them to confidently prescribe it.
In Maine, which is considering adding opioid and heroin addiction to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, Michelle Ham said marijuana helped her end a yearslong addiction to painkillers she took for a bad back and neck.
Tired of feeling “like a zombie,” the 37-year-old mother of two decided to quit cold turkey, which she said brought on convulsions and other withdrawal symptoms.
Then, a friend mentioned marijuana, which Maine had legalized in 1999 for chronic pain and scores of other medical conditions. She gave it a try in 2013 and said the pain is under control. And she hasn’t gone back on the opioids.
“Before, I couldn’t even function. I couldn’t get anything done,” Ham said. “Now, I actually organize volunteers, and we have a donations center to help the needy.”
Most states with medical marijuana allow it for a list of qualifying conditions. Getting on that list is crucial and has resulted in a tug of war in many states, including several in which veterans have been unsuccessful in getting post-traumatic stress disorder approved for marijuana treatment…
While some in the medical industry and the government believe there isn’t a difference between addiction and dependence, medical science shows there are plenty of distinctions between the two. So, instead of saying that we should use cannabis to treat opioid “addiction,” the more precise (and palatable) term might be that it should be used to treat opioid “dependence.”