Going Green: Manage Your Pain Without the Fear of Addiction
The United States has rarely faced a public health crisis comparable to the current opioid addiction epidemic. It has got so out of hand that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently took the unprecedented step of asking pharmaceutical company Endo to pull its opioid painkiller Opana ER from the market. President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to get a grip on the crisis through proposals to change Medicare plans, among them limiting opioid prescriptions.
With opioid abuse claiming tens of thousands of lives every year, researchers and pharmaceutical companies are getting increasingly serious about marijuana as a substitute for addictive pain medicines. In U.S. states where pot has been legalized, millions of people are already “going green,” which means they are turning to marijuana instead of prescription drugs to deal with chronic pain and other conditions.
What are the benefits of going green?
In addition to providing a natural alternative, cannabis and cannabis-based remedies reportedly offer patients a number of other benefits. The majority of people suffering from chronic pain choose to replace opioids with marijuana mostly because it helps them minimize side effects. Such findings were reported by researchers in Canada, as well as academics from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Medical School.
Among the side effects of opioid use are dizziness, constipation, sexual dysfunction, and breathing problems. According to the U.S. study, patients with chronic pain reported that medical marijuana helped them cut their use of prescription pain medications by 64%. In addition, they experienced fewer side effects and their quality of life improved by 45%.
How to make the switch?
At the federal level, marijuana remains illegal in the U.S., but many states have approved it for medicinal use. Patients with a qualifying condition require a doctor’s recommendation, which will clear then to get a medical marijuana card or permission to buy medical marijuana products from local dispensaries.
Each state has its own procedures for card approval, so patients need to do their research or approach a local clinic for advice. Those who live in the Sunshine State, for example, can get more information and apply for a Florida medical marijuana card at Alternative Medical Care.
What should patients keep in mind?
There’s a growing body of evidence that the cannabis plant can help chronic pain sufferers. Proponents of medical marijuana often point out that no one has yet died from an overdose, which is far from being the case with prescription painkillers.
However, the fact remains that marijuana should be used responsibly because it could lead to addition when abused. Moreover, many researchers are not yet prepared to declare marijuana an effective treatment for opioid and heroin addiction. Although few deny that cannabis can help chronic pain sufferers, there is still not enough scientific evidence to conclude that going green will help those addicted to opioids and street drugs kick the habit. Such patients may benefit from marijuana, but they will need to undergo a more comprehensive course of treatment that combines medical solutions with psychological support.
Living with chronic pain is a heavy burden, both for the afflicted individuals and society. The problem becomes even more severe when factoring in the impact of prescription medications used to manage the pain and the consequences of their prolonged use. Patients, doctors, and academics are looking to marijuana for answers. It’s now up to governments to acknowledge the potential and eliminate regulatory hurdles that hold back research.