Science suggests cannabis can ease withdrawal
By Alyse Morgan
It’s no mystery that opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in the United States. 2015 alone saw with 33,000 fatal overdoses. Over half of said opioid-related deaths were caused by legitimately obtained prescriptions. While District Attorney Jeff Sessions says that legal cannabis is to blame for the epidemic, science says otherwise.
According to statistics in drug abuse, in 2011 alone, the thirteen states that legalized medical marijuana had seen a 35 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths. A study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health found that in the two years following its legalization for recreational marijuana, Colorado saw a 6.5 percent decrease in opioid use. Meanwhile, states without legalization — Florida for example — saw increased opioid-related fatalities of 22.7%.
Three Ways Cannabis Helps
We had the good fortune to meet with Dr. Joe Cohen of Holos Health and Journey to Life in Boulder. He is considered an expert in the field of cannabis medicine. According to Dr. Cohen, cannabis is doing its part to end the opioid epidemic in the United States in three specific ways.
- Cannabis amplifies opioids. Cannabis potentiates the effects of opioids, meaning that when someone takes cannabis with opioids, they can immediately cut their dose of opioids in half, and begin the process of removing the opioids from their system.
- Cannabis relieves withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis also provides relief from the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal such as: vomiting, abdominal pain, chronic pain, temperature changes, and tremors.
- Cannabis protects the brain during withdrawal. Cohen also mentioned a process that kills off brain cells and occurs during opioid withdrawal called glutamate excitotoxicity. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for memory and cognitive function. During withdrawal, exotoxins enter the brain causing high levels of calcium to penetrate cell walls causing cell damage. Cannabis stops this process from happening and protects the brain.