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Cannabis May Help End the Opioid Crisis

Cannabis May Help End the Opioid Crisis


Opioid addiction is a major public safety concern, killing more people a day than gun violence. Adrianne Wilson-Poe, PhD, and faculty member at Washington University School of Medicine, urges policy makers to consider reclassifying cannabis because of its potential in reducing opioid overdose and withdrawal. On US News she writes, “Whether you are a physician, policymaker, law enforcement officer, or a concerned parent, it is time to look beyond the decades of stigma. It is time to acknowledge the evidence, and advocate for what cannabis really can be: the exit drug from the opioid epidemic” (Wilson-Poe, 2018).

Dr. Wilson-Poe believes that cannabis can “treat and prevent addiction; reduce and eliminate overdoses; and develop sustainable strategies to provide relief to the 100 million Americans living with chronic pain” (Wilson-Poe, 2018).

The cannabinoids within the cannabis plant have pain-relieving ability very similar to that of opioids, with the added benefit of being anti-inflammatory, and less addictive. Dr. Wilson-Poe emphasized that “fatal overdose of cannabis is virtually impossible” (Wilson-Poe, 2018).

When medical cannabis becomes legal opioid mortality falls 25 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. That percentage continues to rise the longer cannabis remains legal. Cannabis relieves withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, and depression, leading to fewer cases of relapse and overdose. Cannabis increases the potency of pain relief in opioids. Using them together can help prevent a patient from overdosing because of their high tolerance. If used before exposure to opioids, cannabis can actually prevent the buildup of opioid tolerance (Wilson-Poe, 2018).

Because of this, Dr. Wilson-Poe calls for reclassification. As of now, cannabis is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, on the same level as heroin. She writes the “single greatest barrier to curbing the opioid epidemic” is the lack of research available on cannabis. If we had the facts, she believes “many federal agencies and policymakers would be much more inclined to support coast-to-coast patient access to cannabis” (Wilson-Poe, 2018). Such research cannot be conducted because of cannabis’ current classification.

Wilson-Poe, A. (2018). Commentary: Is cannabis the answer to the opioid crisis? Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2018-03-23/commentary-is-cannabis-the-answer-to-the-opioid-crisis