Doctors Should Consider Pot to Treat Opioid Addictions, UBC Study Says

Article by Mike Hager, The Globe and Mail

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Cannabis could be effective in weaning Canadians addicted to opioids off the deadly drugs, according to a University of British Columbia study that examined existing research on how marijuana affects those with mental-health and substance-abuse issues.

Zach Walsh, a clinical psychologist and cannabis researcher who led the study, says the research shows many people are using cannabis to replace or lower their intake of heavier medications, though he cautioned that more medical trials are needed to prove how marijuana is helping those addicted to opioids.

“We need to explore the possibility that someone could substitute cannabis for an opioid and, most addiction professionals would agree, that cannabis is an easier habit to kick …” said Dr. Walsh. “So if you can transition to cannabis, then wean yourself off that, that might offer some opportunities for people.”

Dr. Walsh and his team of five other researchers from UBC and two American institutions reviewed all studies involving mental health and marijuana published since 1960, and found a pronounced link between opioids and cannabis. Dr. Walsh said he hopes the study, published in the latest issue of the Clinical Psychology Review journal, will lead doctors and counsellors to rethink their views on cannabis.

“This is like any other medicine: You want to look at the harms, you want to look at the benefits, you want to be specific to conditions and listen to your patients,” Dr. Walsh said.

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