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Opiate Dependence

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.

New research about opioid alternatives is to be expected as the University of Florida begins a five-year study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study whether medical marijuana is a more suitable treatment over opioids for HIV/AIDs patients.

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This information is not provided by medical professionals and is intended only to complement, and not to replace or contradict, any health or medical advice or information provided by healthcare professionals. If you have any questions, please contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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