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How Treatment Centers Use Cannabis to Help Treat Opioid Addiction



By Nicola Yap — Did you know that some treatment centers use marijuana for opioid addiction cases? Let’s look into cannabis-based rehab programs to address opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction has taken its toll on millions of individuals around the world, with all sorts of treatments aiming to address the debilitating condition. One of the rising possibilities in treating opioid addiction is rehabilitation involving the use of medical marijuana, but this has created a string of debates on its advantages and risks. In this article, we will delve into the value of cannabis-based rehab programs as a way to address addiction to opioids.

The Truth About Opioid Addiction

Opioids are potent drugs usually prescribed to patients who have undergone a severe trauma and major surgery, as well as to cancer patients in order to reduce chronic pain.

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In recent years, prescription painkillers such as opioids have become “gateway drugs” to heroin since it affects the same brain areas by altering the response to pain and pleasure. In just a matter of few minutes, opioid users can experience a sense of ecstasy, relaxation, and ease.

In a general perspective, individuals have come to depend on opioids to get a high, unaware of the risks that these substances pose to their health. Most opioid prescriptions are designed to be used for just a few days, but some people tend to extend the prescribed duration.

We need to understand that opioids are also narcotics and being such, it increases your chance of an overdose. That is why abusing this drug is always considered a medical emergency because it is extremely addictive and hard to stop.

Opioid abuse may lead to severe dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Other side effects include drowsiness, mental haze, vomiting, nausea, body pains, anxiety, diarrhea, overdose, and death.

It can also alter behavioral patterns and cognitive aptitude coupled with adverse physical symptoms that are difficult to manage. When the drug supply is depleted, users tend to seek alternatives.

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Addressing Opioid Addiction Through Marijuana

In the process of quitting drugs, individuals who are addicted to the substance oftentimes cannot stop outright. It is more helpful to start with reducing opioid dosage gradually.

Research shows that the use of medical marijuana is a promising option in countering opioid addiction. The medical society looks at opioid addiction as a form of illness that may be treated with cannabis.

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Medical marijuana is used in rehabilitation programs for opioid withdrawal symptoms. This method is often described as a harm reduction technique. The cannabis is used as a replacement for harsher drugs to reduce cravings and lessen the harmful or uncomfortable effects of withdrawal symptoms.

To put it simply, it is like replacing the opioid with another addictive drug but with less negative impact on the body.

Controversies Surrounding Medical Marijuana for Opioid Addiction Treatment

In 2014, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine highlighted a drop of 25% in opioid overdose death cases in U.S. states where medical marijuana is legalized.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of controversies surrounding this claim.

For starters, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the use of medical marijuana for such cases. Stronger data are needed to support a large-scale study regarding its medical benefits. Momentarily, statistics may not be enough to prove it really works.

It is still illegal to get a prescription for medical marijuana since the drug is not yet federally approved, although some states have already legalized medical cannabis use.

In addition, legislators together with the medical societies have opposing opinions regarding the validity of a marijuana-based treatment. Others will agree that all drugs are the same. But for those experts whose argument is the efficiency of medical marijuana to combat opioid addiction, it is more important to reduce drug mortality and minimize the harmful effects since cannabis has no deadly dose.

In some states where marijuana is legalized, they can use this drug to treat a patient’s illness. Furthermore, a lot of doctors are looking at the great promise medical marijuana can contribute to the evolution of treating opioid addiction. As a matter of fact, some treatment centers are already doing further research on its effectivity.

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What is Cannabis-Based Rehabilitation?

This kind of treatment makes use of medical marijuana to treat or manage opioid addiction. Marijuana naturally contains cannabinoids, a mind-altering chemical that controls the reward system of the brain.

It is believed that medical marijuana is by far the best option to counter opioid addiction since it is much safer to use and is not lethal.

Contrary to what others may think, though, it doesn’t involve total replacement. Instead, marijuana will act as an adjunct to treatment, much like an exit drug. It is going to be used to detox the body from opioids by reducing – if not eliminating – the adverse cravings for other drugs.

Some studies indicate that during cannabis-based treatment, the patient feels more relaxed and no longer craves for opioids. In some cases where the patient experiences pain, taking medical marijuana relieves them of pain.

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Cannabis-Based Rehabilitation Program: Will It Work For You?

In truth, people who are addicted to opioids may not be able to quit even if they wanted to. Also, not all addicts can be treated through abstinence from the drug. Therefore, choosing the right treatment and rehabilitation program can be an ordeal.

If you’re considering a rehab program that makes use of medical marijuana, you need to consider the following factors:

  • Cost. Some programs accept health insurance. But in cases where it is not applicable, treatment can be expensive. Try to find out if there are affordable schemes available, or if the insurance company allows medical marijuana treatment.
  • Location. Especially for out-patients, accessibility is a must.
  • Duration. A short-term treatment can last for 3 months while a long-term treatment will take at least 6 months.
  • Living conditions. Most rehabs require you to share a room with another patient to promote a support system. However, some facilities allow you to occupy a room by yourself.
  • Amenities. Some rehabs offer luxurious amenities in their package, but they may be quite expensive and may not be necessarily needed in your treatment.

In case you find an addiction treatment center that you’re interested in, ask the staff if they offer an option for cannabis-based rehabilitation. Make sure to ask for details about the program, the pros and cons of going through such a program, and expectations after the rehab process.

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About The Author

Nicola Yap is a content writer for Fight Addiction Now, an online support group offering resources, referrals, latest statistics, materials and other information pertaining to addiction and mental health issues.



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Steven Peters

Owner & Publisher at Natural Revolution
Steven Peters has been a health advocate for more than a decade and proponent for alternative healing by ‘Empowering Natural Living’ through homeopathic approaches. He is also an activist for social justice and environmental causes in the GMO Labeling and Non-GMO grassroots movements across the country, and a staunch advocate for cannabis education and reform.

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