The overuse and misuse of opioid medications is major public health problem for which we don’t currently have an effective solution. Nearly 2.5 million Americans struggle with opioid addiction and over 100 people die every day from opioid overdose. Though controversial, more and more evidence is showing that medical cannabis could be a lifesaving component of a strategy to solve to this epidemic.
I recently had the opportunity to work with Sanjay Gupta on the fourth installment of his groundbreaking series on CNN, Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills, which aired last month, helping to explain how cannabis can be a solution to this epidemic.
How Cannabis Reduces Opioid Dependence
Thousands of people have used cannabis to help them reduce and replace opioid medications, as demonstrated in numerous recent scientific papers and strongly supported by animal research.
Like the reports in the scientific literature, I’ve seen the same positive results firsthand in my medical practices. From a survey of our patients in 2016, of the 542 opioid users who added cannabis:
39% were able to completely stop opioid use
39% used cannabis to reduce their opioid dosage
Adding cannabis reduced pain by more than 40% in nearly half the patients and improved function in 80%
In 87% of patients, it improved quality of life
Cannabis alone isn’t enough to completely solve this epidemic, but we know it can help replace the opioids, improve their safety, and increase adherence to addiction treatment programs.