Cannabis has consistently been demonstrating its great potential to serve as a safe, efficient, and relatively affordable measure for reducing deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States. The latest bit of research published about cannabis shows its potential for individuals undergoing substitution therapy to reduce heroin use or quit heroin altogether.
A UK study published in Addictive Behaviors concluded that cannabis users who were taking buprenorphine as an addiction therapy found greater success in quitting heroin.
Moreover, the authors cited another study that found that individuals who reported cannabis use while undergoing methadone treatments to treat addiction saw a reduction in their heroin use.
Daily alcohol use, in contrast, made it less likely for individuals to quit heroin by the time a year elapsed since their first day of undergoing substitution therapy.
Though the researchers did not study how or why cannabis led to the reduction or cessation of heroin use, the authors suggested that the positive effects of cannabis use may have been due to the proactive nature of self-medication with medical cannabis. They argued that it might be due to a transfer of psychological attachment from heroin to marijuana.
To be clear, it’s not that individuals are replacing heroin addiction with marijuana addiction; cannabis itself is not physically addictive, though individuals can develop a severe dependence upon it, like a chronic gambler or junk food binger.
A recent preliminary study found that CBD, when administered at the same time as a dose of opioid, completely blocked opioid reward mechanisms in a group of mice who were addicted to opioids. Eliminating the “rewarding” sensation of opiate use in humans would imply that fewer individuals would become addicted, and also that those who are addicted might find greater success in rehab programs.
Furthermore, the study showed that CBD had neither rewarding nor aversive effects suggesting its safety if utilized in substitution therapies.
Numerous studies published in the past year have shown that medical marijuana use leads to a reduction in opioid use.
One study found that over three-quarters of individuals who reported using opioids on a regular basis used less of them while using medical marijuana. In addition to reducing opioid use, 42 percent of individuals consumed less alcohol.
Another study found that nearly half of cannabis users used it as a substitute for prescription drugs that treat pain, anxiety, and depression — the most commonly replaced drugs being narcotics and opioids.
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