Cannabis vs Opioids

The medical dictionary defines Opioid as the following-
“Opioid: 1. A synthetic narcotic that resembles the naturally occurring opiates. 2. Any substance that binds to or otherwise affects the opiate receptors on the surface of the cell” (Medicine net, p.1).

Opioid Facts

Every year, there is an estimated 15 million people across the globe that misuse opioids (prescribed or not), 2 million of which are American. These drugs can take time for an individual to come off of as their effects can be highly addictive, such as Oxycodone, Codeine and Morphine. In 2014, an estimated 28,000 people overdosed on Opioids which is the highest recorded death count in history for these drugs. Today, about 40 people die every day in North America from prescription drug overdoses. “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in U.S. adults under age 50, and opioids account for more than half of all drug overdose deaths.” (Opioid Addiction, p.1, 2019). About 20% of Americans who suffer from Chronic pain are using Cannabis treatment instead. 

Types of Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain can be Nociceptive (caused by tissue damage or inflammation) or Neuropathic (nervous system damage or malfunction).
Nociceptive pain is commonly described as a “sharp, aching, or throbbing pain that follows physical damage” (Kaplan, p.1, 2018). After an injury, your body reacts through damaged tissues that attract inflammatory and immune cells to heal the damage. These cells activate pain receptors that travel through your nerves, up your spinal cord and signal your brain to sense the pain. Cannabis can block the inflammatory process and pain signals at the injury location through binding to CB2 receptors.
Neuropathic pain results from damage to the body’s nervous system and affects about 10% of the population. Common injuries that result in this pain are “forceful injury, pinching, or stabbing that damages nerves” (Kaplan, p.1, 2018). Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, HIV, and Diabetes are all types of Diseases that cause this type of pain. This type of pain is difficult to treat since it doesn’t stem from inflammation that can be handled with a NSAID like Ibuprofen. Cannabis activates the CB1 receptors which allow relief of pain signals to the spinal cord and their brain processes.

Cannabis – The Cure

Throughout history, Cannabis has been used as medicine for a list of diseases and pain. The beneficial plant has only been illegal in the United States since 1937. “Cannabis has been utilized for centuries throughout the world to alleviate disease. Its derivatives were named “panacea”, or “cure-all”, and were sold as a legal medicine, mainly for pain” Manzanares, Carrascosa, p.1). Whether you use Cannabis for cancer, disease, chronic pain, or anxiety and/or depression, it is a healthier alternative to Opioids with less side effects AND has less addictive qualities.

Chief of Hematology/Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Donald Abrams, supports Cannabis treatment for Chronic pain and suggests the following:
“Given the safety profile of cannabis compared to opioids, cannabis appears to be far safer. However, if a patient is already using opioids, I would urge them not to make any drastic changes to their treatment protocol without close supervision by their physician” (Kossen, p.1, 2016).

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Sources and Further Readings:
William Jr., Definition Of Opioid

Opioid Addiction – Genetics Home Reference – Nih, 2019

Jeremy Kossen, Is Cannabis Better For Chronic Pain Than Opioids?, 2016

Josh Kaplan, How Cannabis Relieves Different Types Of Pain, 2018

J Manzanares-Md, Julian-A Carrascosa, Role Of the Cannabinoid System in Pain Control and Therapeutic Implications For the Management Of Acute and Chronic Pain Episodes

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