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Can Marijuana Treat Opioid Addiction?

54 Can Marijuana Treat Opioid Addiction?
Medical cannabis is currently legal in 24 states, with another 11 pushing for it. Cannabis Culture/Flick CC BY 2.0

To date, four U.S. states have decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis, while 20 others have legalized its use for medicinal purposes. People with qualifying conditions, such as cancer or multiple sclerosis, can get prescribed pot in order to help with the problem, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that people with other medical conditions that aren’t on the limited list could also benefit from smoking marijuana.

Some such conditions include the addiction of opioids and illegal narcotics, like heroin. There are many people who would swear by the fact that the smoking of pot helped to wean them off painkillers by in part reducing their withdrawal symptoms, and a few tentative studies might agree, but there is simply too little information currently available to come down on one side or the other.


This hasn’t, however, stopped advocates in Maine pushing to add opioid and heroin addiction to the list of qualifying medical conditions that would allow the prescription of marijuana. The support for the addition comes as there has been a worrying increase in the addiction of opioids not just in Maine, but across much of the U.S. This in turn has led to a shocking increase in the number of drug overdoses. Officials in Vermont, for example, have blamed opioid addiction for a massive 44 percent increase in drug-related deaths since 2010.

Without the hard data to back it up though, many federal officials are reluctant to suddenly give it the go ahead. Others, however, have argued that when faced with such an epidemic, the potential use of medical marijuana to cut drug addiction rates should be given serious consideration.

If Maine does manage to push this through, then it will become the first state to add opioid and heroin addiction to the qualifying conditions of medical cannabis, and could open the door for other states to follow suit. After a public hearing in which close to 30 medical marijuana caregivers and patients gave evidence at a public hearing on the merits of pot to treat addiction, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services now has 172 days to respond. 

Main image: Cannabis Culture/Flickr CC BY 2.0


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