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Medical Marijuana and Opiate Dependence

What Is Opiate Dependence?

Opiates are a class of drugs that are intended to be used to treat moderate to severe pain. Among the many common forms of opiate based pain killers are drugs such as OxyContin Fentanyl, Dilaudid, Lorcet, Lortab, and Stadol as well as morphine, codeine and heroin. Because opiate based medications are powerful pain killers, they are frequently abused. Abuse of these drugs can then lead to dependence or addiction. Intentional abuse, however, is not the only path to dependence or addiction. Often, an individual may become dependent or addicted to opiates as a result of a long-term illness or injury for which opiate based pain medications have been legally prescribed. Although the terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing from a clinical standpoint. Sources may not agree on precisely how to define the two terms, but they all agree that they are not the same thing. Most experts focus on a person’s compulsive use of a drug, and the negative and dangerous consequences of the use, when defining addiction. Dependence, on the other hand, tends to be defined more by the physical need for a drug and the withdrawal symptoms associated with not having the drug. As such, a person can be dependent, yet not addicted and vice versa.
While many people who suffer from an opiate dependence have arrived at the point as a result of a recreational drug habit, there are a significant number of people who have become dependent on opiates as a result of the use of legally prescribed opiates. Opiate tolerance is common among long-term users. What this means is that a patient who needs to control pain may initially be given a relatively low dose opiate. Over time, the patient will develop a tolerance to the medication and will need more of the same medication in order to achieve the same pain relief. This, understandably, leads to consuming higher and higher doses of opiates which may lead to dependence.
Symptoms of an opiate dependence focus on what happens when a person does not have access to the medication. When the drug is withheld, an individual with an opiate dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms including, pain, cramps and tremors as well as vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms may also include tachycardia, restless leg syndrome and various flu-like symptoms.
Traditional treatment for opiate dependence depends to a large extent on the cause or progression of the dependence. If the patient has been using opiates illicitly, then methadone, or other drug-replacement options, along with psychological counseling may be required. For patients who became dependent as a result of the need to control legitimate pain, treatment options are more complicated as the patient continues to need pain relief.

Opiates are a class of drugs that are intended to be used to treat moderate to severe pain. Among the many common forms of opiate based pain killers are drugs such as OxyContin Fentanyl, Dilaudid, Lorcet, Lortab, and Stadol as well as morphine, codeine and heroin. Because opiate based medications are powerful pain killers, they are frequently abused. Abuse of these drugs can then lead to dependence or addiction. Intentional abuse, however, is not the only path to dependence or addiction. Often, an individual may become dependent or addicted to opiates as a result of a long-term illness or injury for which opiate based pain medications have been legally prescribed. Although the terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing from a clinical standpoint. Sources may not agree on precisely how to define the two terms, but they all agree that they are not the same thing. Most experts focus on a person’s compulsive use of a drug, and the negative and dangerous consequences of the use, when defining addiction. Dependence, on the other hand, tends to be defined more by the physical need for a drug and the withdrawal symptoms associated with not having the drug. As such, a person can be dependent, yet not addicted and vice versa.

While many people who suffer from an opiate dependence have arrived at the point as a result of a recreational drug habit, there are a significant number of people who have become dependent on opiates as a result of the use of legally prescribed opiates. Opiate tolerance is common among long-term users. What this means is that a patient who needs to control pain may initially be given a relatively low dose opiate. Over time, the patient will develop a tolerance to the medication and will need more of the same medication in order to achieve the samvicee pain relief. This, understandably, leads to consuming higher and higher doses of opiates which may lead to dependence.Symptoms of an opiate dependence focus on what happens when a person does not have access to the medication. When the drug is withheld, an individual with an opiate dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms including, pain, cramps and tremors as well as vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms may also include tachycardia, restless leg syndrome and various flu-like symptoms.

Traditional treatment for opiate dependence depends to a large extent on the cause or progression of the dependence. If the patient has been using opiates illicitly, then methadone, or other drug-replacement options, along with psychological counseling may be required. For patients who became dependent as a result of the need to control legitimate pain, treatment options are more complicated as the patient continues to need pain relief.

Medical Marijuana and Opiate Dependence

Medical Marijuana and Opiate Dependence
Medical marijuana offers a unique treatment opportunity for patients who are suffering from opiate dependence. Traditional treatment options for illicit users of opiates focus on weaning the individual off the drug slowly through drug replacement or may call for a rapid detoxification followed by intensive counseling. Both options have a high recidivism rate. Even more problematic are patients who require medication to combat moderate to severe pain. For these individuals, neither a slow withdrawal or a rapid detoxification is appropriate as the patient continues to require pain relief.
Medical marijuana can help in two significant ways. First, it may be able to help combat the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with the abrupt withdrawal from opiates. In addition, medical marijuana offers a valid treatment option that can be used in conjunction with opiate based pain medications to reduce the amount of opiates the patient needs to control ongoing pain.
Medical Marijuana and Opiate Dependence: Clinical Evidence
The effectiveness of medical marijuana as a pain reliever is fairly universally accepted. In a recent study, participants who were currently using opiate based pain medications to relieve moderate to severe pain were given three marijuana cigarettes a day in addition to their opiate based pain medications. Study participants reported an overall decrease in pain level of 27 percent -- without additional opiate based drugs. The significance of these findings may mean that medical marijuana can be used in conjunction with traditional opiate based medications for patients who have reached a state of opiate dependence, yet who require continued pain relief.
The Neuropsychopharmacology journal has also reported the results of a study that shows promising results in the use of medical marijuana to block opiate dependence. In that study, the oral administration of THC, a prominent component of medical marijuana, was found to suppress sensitivity to opiate dependence. TheAmerican Journal on Addictions has also reported that individuals being treated for opiate dependence are more likely to stick to the treatment plan when they use medical marijuana as part of the treatment plan.

Medical Marijuana and Opiate Dependence

Medical marijuana offers a unique treatment opportunity for patients who are suffering from opiate dependence. Traditional treatment options for illicit users of opiates focus on weaning the individual off the drug slowly through drug replacement or may call for a rapid detoxification followed by intensive counseling. Both options have a high recidivism rate. Even more problematic are patients who require medication to combat moderate to severe pain. For these individuals, neither a slow withdrawal or a rapid detoxification is appropriate as the patient continues to require pain relief.

Medical marijuana can help in two significant ways. First, it may be able to help combat the physical withdrawal symptoms associated with the abrupt withdrawal from opiates. In addition, medical marijuana offers a valid treatment option that can be used in conjunction with opiate based pain medications to reduce the amount of opiates the patient needs to control ongoing pain.

Medical Marijuana and Opiate Dependence: Clinical Evidence

The effectiveness of medical marijuana as a pain reliever is fairly universally accepted. In a recent study, participants who were currently using opiate based pain medications to relieve moderate to severe pain were given three marijuana cigarettes a day in addition to their opiate based pain medications. Study participants reported an overall decrease in pain level of 27 percent -- without additional opiate based drugs. The significance of these findings may mean that medical marijuana can be used in conjunction with traditional opiate based medications for patients who have reached a state of opiate dependence, yet who require continued pain relief.The Neuropsychopharmacology journal has also reported the results of a study that shows promising results in the use of medical marijuana to block opiate dependence. In that study, the oral administration of THC, a prominent component of medical marijuana, was found to suppress sensitivity to opiate dependence. TheAmerican Journal on Addictions has also reported that individuals being treated for opiate dependence are more likely to stick to the treatment plan when they use medical marijuana as part of the treatment plan.

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