How Cannabis Can Be A Valuable Tool In the Opioid Crisis

Article by Lauren Wilson, Lift News

Health & Safety How Cannabis Can Be A Valuable Tool In the Opioid Crisis By Lauren Wilson

With the steady rise of opioid use, misuse and addiction in North America, deaths caused by opioid overdose have reached epidemic proportions.

Over-prescription coupled with the highly addictive nature of opium-derived drugs has led to a very troubling and steady increase in overdose deaths. These drugs include painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, along with a newer, fully synthetic opioid called fentanyl.

In Canada there were 2,861 opioid overdoses in 2016, with that number jumping to 3,897 in 2017 – 92% of which were not intentional. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there were 66,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, up from 42,000 in 2016. This translates to roughly 180 overdose deaths per day in the United States, and 11 per day in Canada.

The introduction of the synthetic opioid fentanyl is like throwing gasoline onto a fire. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, with only 2 mg being a lethal dose. A study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reportsthat deaths related to fentanyl increased 540% from 2015 to 2016, which accounts for the entire increase in opioid overdose deaths in the United States during that period.

How opioids and cannabis work in the body

Opioids provide their analgesic (pain-relieving) effects by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord. They disrupt pain signals and create a sense of euphoria and well-being by stimulating parts of the brain associated with reward, which in turn leads to the production of dopamine.

Over time, the continued use of opioids reduces their overall efficacy, meaning that higher doses are required to produce the same effect. The body also becomes physically dependent on these drugs, which can lead to full-blown addiction.

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