In part one I described a case study using cannabis as an effective aid in withdrawal from opiate addiction. In this article we’ll review other clinicians with similar stories and the science supporting it.
OPIATE PRESCRIPTION USE ESCALATING
The number of prescriptions for opioids (like hydrocodone and oxycodone products) have escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013, with the United States their biggest consumer globally, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and 81 percent for oxycodone (e.g., Percocet). (http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2014/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse) 04/19/2015
As you can see opiate use/addiction is becoming a household word where heroin addicts are only a very small subset. The vast majority of these “addicts” are the moms and pops of average suburbia. What this means for us is that we desperately need a safe, effective, and non-toxic alternative to the futile treatments now offered to those who inadvertently become victims of their doctor-prescribed medication.
Presently what can we offer the suburban mom who became hooked on Percocet? Well, there’s two therapies that I think are the only effective ways to detox: ibogaine and marijuana. Sadly, the use of ibogaine, a powerful cure for alcohol, opiate and cocaine addiction, is only available in Vancouver or Mexico because it is a psychoactive substance. Then there’s Narcotics Anonymous, a mirror image of AA, which inadvertently endorses tobacco use as a substitute for opiates. Critics would argue that creating a tobacco addict out of a junky is a step backward since tobacco is actually more toxic and harmful than the most potent opiate.
However, we also have medical marijuana, a compelling therapy for treating the multifaceted effects of withdrawal. But there’s a problem with weed, a big one.
Most addictionologists still view cannabis with a jaundiced eye. To them it’s just another drug of abuse. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that any non-pharmaceutical drug like pot, no matter how effective, is considered taboo and frowned upon by the medical establishment. Therefore, with only a few exceptions, addicts have little choice but to adhere to an outdated treatment regimen. Unless you happen to live in Vancouver, or a cannabis friendly state.
Marijuana is a safe and benign way to assist in detoxification of opiates, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Case studies are pouring in demonstrating the usefulness of such an approach.
SAMPLE RESEARCH AND CASE STUDIES
Dr. Sean Breen has a case study very similar to Danny’s. Located at Medical Cannabis of Southern California, he describes a patient who was able to overcome his opiate addiction by using cannabis therapy to relieve his withdrawal symptoms:
Amazingly the effects of cannabinoids can reduce or eliminate the majority of symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Cannabis can reduce anxiety and agitation, improve sleep and helps normalize the digestive tract.
One trial showed that cannabis users are more likely to adhere to their naltrexone treatment for heroin addiction. Another experiment found that cocaine addicts…similarly exhibited higher treatment retention rates with moderate cannabis use. (http://www.theweedblog.com/science-recognizes-cannabis-reduces-withdrawal-symptoms-but-state-laws-still-dont/) 04/19/2015
Dr. Adi Jaffe is a UCLA-trained addictionologist. He’s the author of: All About Addiction. He draws from his personal experiences with methamphetamine addiction when working with his clients at Alternatives Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles. I believe he sums it up quite nicely:
When you think about it, this is classic harm reduction methodology,…replacing a more harmful and dangerous drug with a lesser one to improve coping while reducing consequences. Harm reduction literature…supports this idea as a positive step in recovery. If someone struggles with anxiety, they need something to help with it, whether that be neurofeedback, talk therapy or weed. (http://reset.me/story/marijuana-use-increasingly-accepted-12-step-programs/) 04/19/2015
Investigators at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that cannabis consumption is associated with decreased symptoms of opiate withdrawal in subjects undergoing methadone maintenance treatment, according to the findings of a new study published online in The American Journal on Addictions.
These results suggested a potential role for cannabis in the reduction of withdrawal severity during methadone induction.
The present findings may point to novel interventions to be employed during treatment for opiate dependence that specifically target cannabinoid–opioid system interactions.
A 2009 study published in the same journal previously reported that moderate cannabis use and improved retention in naltrexone [naltrexone blocks opiate receptors] treatment among opiate-dependent subjects. (http://blog.norml.org/2013/07/16/study-marijuana-use-associated-with-decreased-symptoms-of-opiate-withdrawal-in-methadone-maintenance-treatment-subjects/) 04/19/2015
As our love affair with opiates escalates the numbers of addicts will too. Methadone or Suboxone cannot be the answer because they are dangerous and ineffective, especially methadone. Narcotics Anonymous has only dismal success rates while it encourages tobacco addiction.
With the legalization of marijuana the thousands of moms and dads hooked on their prescription pain pills (or strapped with coke or meth addiction) may have a safe and truly effective way to free themselves of their habit. This can be safely done with pot allowing the patient to comfortably detox without suffering from adverse effects seen with toxic medications.
There is a little gem hidden in here and it relates to the interplay between the opiate and the endocannabinoid systems within our brains. This helps explain how this unassuming herb commands such vast potential in addictionology. In an upcoming article I will help to shed some light on this fascinating, yet poorly understood relationship.
The references were not added at the end this time because the Word Press software is acting up…again. So today you get some bold italics, some underlined, with your references.