Marijuana: Alternatives to Prescription Opioids

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Marijuana: Alternatives to Prescription Opioids

June 5, 2019

Medical marijuana was, in many ways, the precursor to legalization; it has been around for more than two decades. As of last month, 33 states and Washington D.C. allow adults to seek cannabis for health conditions.

Different protocols for acquiring a marijuana recommendation from doctors exist from one state to another. California and New Mexico have a long list of conditions that qualify individuals for receiving permission. Louisiana, on the other hand, is notoriously tricky; qualifying conditions include autism, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Experts have divergent stances regarding the treatment of pain with cannabis. What’s more, there is not much evidence that the drug alleviates chronic pain. Either way, a large number of men and women seek out marijuana as an alternative to opioid painkillers.

In Colorado and many other states, prescription opioids are a clear and present danger. Drugs like oxycodone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone are hazardous if misused. Even taking the drugs as a doctor prescribes can result in dependence and addiction. So, it’s only natural that lawmakers would begin thinking outside the box for pain management.

Marijuana for All Things Pain

Last month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 13, The Denver Post reports. The legislation permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana for any health condition they’ve been prescribing painkillers to treat. SB-13 received bipartisan support and is scheduled to go into effect August 2, 2019. While the measure is a victory for marijuana advocates, there is some cause for concern.

“Our real concern is that a patient would go to a physician with a condition that has a medical treatment with evidence behind it, and then instead of that treatment, they would be recommended marijuana instead,” said Stephanie Stewart, a physician in Aurora who cares for addicted patients. “This will substitute marijuana for an FDA-approved medication — something that’s unregulated for something that’s highly regulated.”

Is cannabis far less dangerous than opioids? Yes. Does the drug carry a significant risk of overdose? No. Can marijuana use lead to addiction and negatively impact people’s lives? Absolutely!

Due to decades of prohibition, there is very little research on cannabis as a whole. Chronic pain patients should understand the risks of regular cannabis use even when used for legitimate health concerns. Millions of people struggle with marijuana addiction.

Prolonged use of the drug can result in withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop. Professional assistance is often needed for breaking the cycle of addiction and mitigating the risk of relapse. Signs of withdrawal can include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood and sleep difficulties
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Physical discomfort

Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment

Please contact NorthStar Transitions if you are struggling with cannabis use or any other form of addiction. We’re here to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

NST offers detox, residential, outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and sober living services. Potential clients will be pleased to learn that we work with insurance companies to help make treatment as affordable as possible.

Our evidence-based treatment programs can help you begin the life-changing journey of recovery.


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