Is marijuana the answer to the opioid epidemic?

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Can marijuana save the day? Not yet. But Americans with pains are already turning to the marijuana plant.

Hope: one day you will have the option of varieties or formulations of compounds in marijuana, called “cannabinoids”, that bring relief, they are not addictive and they leave your mind clear.

“Cannabinoids will replace opioids for chronic pain in 5 to 10 years,” said Dr. George Anastassov, executive director of AXIM Biotec, which is developing several products.

There are functions for opiates, medical marijuana and related drugs in the treatment of chronic pain, added Dr. Mary Lynch, a pain researcher and a practicing doctor at Dalhousie University in Canada.

People vary, so a “big part” of the effectiveness of the treatment is genetic, he said.

“Opioids are appropriate in a significant subpopulation with chronic pain, probably 18 percent,” Lynch told Healthline. “Some improve with cannabinoids.”

The problem
Millions of people, including more than 40 percent of elderly Americans, live with back problems, headaches, arthritic joints and other forms of chronic pain, which are defined as pain lasting at least three months.

If the pain is severe, critics say it is very easy to obtain a prescription for Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and other opioids.

Most people use their medication safely.

In figures reported by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, misuse occurs in 21 to 29 percent of patients with chronic pain. Between 8 and 12 percent develop a problem.

But as the number of prescriptions increased, deaths due to overdoses also increased.

Opioids are highly addictive. More than 2 million Americans now have an “opioid disorder.”

Experts agree that the rise of prescription painkillers triggered the outbreak of opiate deaths in the United States today.

Among heroin users, 80 percent first took prescription drugs. And they can be involved in almost 40 percent of fatal overdoses.

Even if you trust yourself, there are other reasons to avoid opioids. Among them is the possibility that your teenager loots the medicine cabinet looking for a medication for parties.

Or it is possible that your recipe has never been the appropriate treatment.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control issued a guide for primary care physicians, indicating that there was “insufficient evidence” to support the long-term usefulness of opioids for chronic pain.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine responded that opiates are “an important option” for people with chronic pain.

Use marijuana to treat pain
Marijuana may already be saving lives.

A study published in April concluded that new medical marijuana laws reduced hospitalizations for opioid problems in those states by 23 percent. Overdose hospitalizations also decreased by 13 percent.

In a previous study that analyzed data from 1999 to 2010, states with medical marijuana laws had, on average, 25 percent fewer opiate deaths than states where marijuana was illegal.

People also seem to have fewer prescriptions in states with medical marijuana laws.

Among people with a prescription for opioid analgesics for long-term use, up to 39 percent also use some type of marijuana.

However, they are emerging with little science to back them up, according to a review by the US Veterans Health Administration (VA). UU Published today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

That study analyzed the research on chronic pain and “cannabis”, the botanical name of the marijuana plant.

The VA report stated: “There is virtually no conclusive information on the benefits of cannabis in populations with chronic pain.”

The team did find evidence of “low intensity” that marijuana or extracts help people with neuropathy, pain from damaged or failed nerves.

A growing group of patients, doctors and scientists hope that the research drastically changes that image.

The rules that strictly limit the investigation have been a significant obstacle. In 2013, the American Academy of Pain Medicine called for changes in federal law.

The future of cannabis
The marijuana plant comes in many varieties and contains hundreds of molecules.

The terms you hear most often are “THC” (tetrahydrocannabinol) and “CBD” (cannabidiol), which do not “raise” it.

THC is more appreciated in recreational versions. It also contributes to pain relief.

Any cannabis plant affects people in many ways, taking advantage of the “endocannabinoid system”, receptors throughout the body.

“Your body produces its own marijuana-like chemicals similar to endorphins,” said Lynch. These chemicals are involved in pain and inflammation, as well as in other functions.

Marijuana helps alleviate a number of difficult-to-treat conditions: migraine; Irritable bowel syndrome, which causes abdominal cramping; and fibromyalgia, muscle pain throughout the body.

One theory says that people with these conditions share “endocannabinoid deficiency”.

Dr. Daniel Clauw, a chronic pain specialist at the University of Michigan who works with patients with fibromyalgia, agrees that cannabinoids are promising.

“We do not know which of the ingredients are most active, nor which is the optimal strength and combination,” he told Healthline. “It is almost certain that there is an optimal ratio of THC and CBD for pain that is not in any of the preparations” now available.

When people stop using a plant to get pure THC, “they do not think it’s that effective or that it has many more side effects,” he said.

The first prescription medicine derived from cannabis, Sativex, contains half of THC and half of CBD. Approval was obtained outside the United States for the treatment of spasticity of multiple sclerosis. But that relationship has had mixed results.

AXIM is testing a controlled release chewing gum that contains 50 milligrams of CBD to treat irritable bowel syndrome. The company is also testing a gum that contains both THC and CBD to treat the pain and spasticity of multiple sclerosis.

In June, he applied for a patent on chewing gum that says it can relieve pain and addiction to opiates.

High doses are needed to get relief from CBD alone, reports Gary Hiller, president and chief operating officer of Phytecs, a Los Angeles-based biotechnology firm.

By adding fluoride, you have seen that the CBD effect increases up to 20 times, he told Healthline.

Phytecs is also looking for completely different ways to access the endocannabinoid system.

It works
Clauw and Lynch turn to other medications, such as amitriptyline, duloxetine (Cymbalta) and pregabalin (Lyrica).

Clauw suggests that patients with generalized muscle pain talk to their doctors about cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril).

Marijuana, he says, would be the next best, followed by opioids.

If you have had more than one pain problem in your life, observe, you may have been physically active before and have regressed to avoid pain.

Find ways to move safely again. Aerobic exercise is a potent analgesic.

Therapy can help change your thinking when you feel pain, moving away from fear and acceptance.

Says Hiller: “There is a clear need for new therapeutic strategies to safely manage acute and chronic pain.”

But the treatment related to cannabis will go beyond pain, and adds: “The more than 4,500 years of reported therapeutic use of cannabis are simply the initial chapter of something much more significant” ..

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