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by Seshata on 01/06/2015 | Medicinal

Top 3 benefits of cannabis for opiate dependence

Opiate dependence can have severely detrimental effects on normal life and everyday function, and can be extremely difficult to overcome. Cannabis can not only reduce the need to take opiate-based painkillers in the first place, but may also help to alleviate withdrawal symptoms even in existing cases of addiction.


opiate dependence - Sensi Seeds blog

1. Analgesic/ chronic pain relief

Chronic pain is one of the primary reasons for utilization of opiate painkillers. It is also one of the primary reasons for utilization of medical cannabis: in a patient survey of 350 Michigan-based medical cannabis patients, over 85% of respondents reported that they used cannabis to treat pain.

Cannabis’ proven ability to treat chronic pain has enabled tens of thousands of patients in several US states to reduce or even eliminate their need for opiate-based painkillers, and in doing so has significantly reduced the number of painkiller-related deaths in those states.

Opiates 1 - Sensi Seeds blog
Opiates are an important but highly-addictive class of painkillers (© Instant Vantage)

A study conducted in 2010 using data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found that over forty individuals per day die from prescription painkiller overdose in the USA—more than the number of deaths attributable to illegal heroin and cocaine use. In the thirteen states with medical cannabis, it was found that the rate of prescription painkiller overdose was up to 25% lower than in non-medical states.

Even more tellingly, it was shown that the longer that medical cannabis had been available (and had thus become known and available to more people), the stronger the correlation was. In states that had had medical cannabis for a year or less, the decrease in painkiller deaths was around 20%; in states that had had medical laws for five years or more, the decrease was up to 34%.

2. Cannabis is Neuroprotective

Dopaminergic & endocannabinoid signalling

The endocannabinoid system has various functional similarities to the dopaminergic signalling system. The dopaminergic system is a fundamentally important set of signalling processes which help to control the brain’s “reward system”.

The “reward system” itself is a vast and hugely complex set of related areas of the brain, and includes the hippocampus, the hypothalamus, the amygdala, the frontal cortex and various other structures.

As well as providing sensations of reward and pleasure in response to stimuli that register as positive, the dopaminergic system is a vital part of the body’s pain response on occasions of negative stimulus.

Opiates are a class of drug with huge significance to medicine, due to the fact that they are the best-known and most effective agonists of the dopamine receptors. Primarily, opiates are useful as painkillers, with morphine and codeine being two well-known examples of opiate painkillers. Due to their dramatic effect on the subjective experience of reward and pleasure, opiates can be highly addictive; furthermore, they can be exceptionally hard to cease usage of, due to their propensity to cause physical dependence and severe, crippling withdrawal symptoms.

How the signalling systems interact to mediate individual response

Opiates 2 - Sensi Seeds blog
Opiates can have powerful effects, and cause over 40 deaths per day in the USA (© Darron Birgenheier)

Although the dopaminergic system and the endocannabinoid system are classed as separate, there is plenty of evidence pointing to the fact that use of cannabinoids can have effects on the dopaminergic system. Indeed, it seems that the dopaminergic and endocannabinoid systems are fundamentally linked, and that this relationship determines the individual response to cannabinoids and opiates; however, this relationship is far from being fully understood.

It is well established that cannabis can reduce the likelihood of a patient in pain turning to opiates to control their symptoms. However (and although our knowledge of this area of neurology is in its infancy), there is promising evidence that use of cannabinoids may help to alleviate opiate dependence even in existing addicts. It is thought that cannabinoids can help to activate the same receptors activated by opiate use, and that by doing so, the need to use opiates themselves is therefore reduced.

A 2009 study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that in rats, exposure to THC or its synthetic analogue dronabinol could block opiate dependence in rats. However, the effect is not as simple as it may at first appear to the reader: in fact, this blocking effect of THC was only relevant to rats that had been deprived of maternal support, and did not affect the response to opiates in rats that had not been maternally deprived.

Furthermore, the tendency to develop dependence on opiates was far more prevalent in the sample group of rats that had been maternally deprived compared with the control group. It appears that the effect of THC was realized not only through its action on the dopamine receptors, but also that THC’s effect on the cannabinoid receptors themselves caused the knock-on effect of releasing more dopamine.

The implications of this for humans are obvious. A vast body of research over decades has strengthened the argument that exposure to a negative environment (such as maternal deprivation, or low socioeconomic status) has a fundamental effect on the likelihood of an individual becoming dependent on pharmaceutical substances in order to experience “reward”. If a substance with fewer negative effects can be substituted for one with demonstrably very great negative effects, the overall impact on both the individual’s health and that of the wider population is obvious.

3. Neuroprotective, via an alternative mechanism

Opiates 3 - Sensi Seeds blog
Cannabinoids may have important roles to play in the management of opiate dependence (© Don Goofy)

The above section discusses how THC may be useful in removing the need to take opiates; the action of THC is in many ways similar to that of opiates in that it can agonize certain dopamine receptors and cause the release of dopamine, triggering the subjective experience of reward. However, there is an alternative mechanism via which cannabinoids may reduce or altogether remove the need to take opiates, which rather than THC, focuses on CBD.

CBD is an antagonist of the endocannabinoid receptors, and its presence mediates the ability of THC to activate the cannabinoid receptors and release dopamine. A 2006 study for the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics found that CBD, via its receptor-blocking mechanism, could cause a reduction in the reward experienced by presence of opiates, and may help to reduce the reward-seeking behaviours (the search for a “fix”) in dependent individuals.

While this may not prove as successful in treating existing addicts who are currently dependent on opiates, it may have two important roles to play. Firstly, for ex-users at high risk of relapse, it may help to reduce the desire to engage in reward-seeking behaviour; secondly, for those who have not become dependent on opiates but may be at higher risk due to negative childhood environment—such as children in care homes or those of particular socioeconomic deprivation—it may reduce the likelihood of opiate dependence ever occurring.

Comment Section

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john knotts

Cannabis is really helpful in curing various diseases.The two main components from the cannabis plant that are of medical interest are THC and CBD. Doctors prescribe medical cannabis to treat diseases like Muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, Nausea from cancer chemotherapy, Poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness, such as HIV, or nerve pain, Seizure disorders

02/06/2015

al

Really interesting article,I have been a heroin user/methadone addict for the past 20 years,The past 18 months i have been clean of street drugs and have reduced methadone by 55%,I made the decision to stop, but armed myself with a grow tent to help with the bumpy ride,I have tried before but always failed,this time with cannabis i feel much stronger/determined and confident.The "Hobby" side of the grow has also been very important in keeping my mind off the shit,I wish i could talk to more understanding professionals about this,Cannabis is also having amazing effects on my diabetes for the better as well as giving some pain release to my feet which suffer due to complications from nerve damage from diabetes.

14/06/2015

PapaKush

After 10+ years of opiate use 4 months ago I opt out from using them with my Doctors blessing. Now I use cannabis oil in my coffee and edibles and smoke a little. Even my daughter has notice a change for the better. I feel better and get a lot more done.

16/06/2015

Amanda

I'm an struggling addict of opiate pain killers now for 12 years and would love to find a strain of marjiauna that gives the same feeling as an opiate.

21/10/2017

mike j

Would any of the synthetic thc like jwh compounds help alleviate opiate withdrawals. Havent found anything on that. Doubting it would ecspecially it having its own dependancy but just a week of synthetic thc shouldnt cause addiction worse than opiates can. Im an opiate addict and i also smoked jwh for 9months straight and had no withdrawals. I dont think jwh is safe but maybe if your carefull iy could help you through the worst..

22/04/2016

Ferly

Great posts! i really thank for your all information you write about opiate drugs. It`s really helped me! Thanks for sharing it.

29/03/2017

dm

2nd day on cbd's. have quit from taking opiates at least twice in the now about ten years I have been using. a HUGE reason I don't quit bcuz when I go w/out opiate I cannot work due to the HORRIBLE withdrawal symptoms. but I am sick of being a slave to it... took a chance on my maryj smoker hubby's suggestion on taking cbd. it works! my job involves a lot of reading. I'm physically here but still hard to concentrate (yes I'm at work now). I'll make up my time by working off the clock after hours here and there this week. I figure if I can get rid of the withdraw stuff I can finally do what I've wanted to do since I've known that the opiates were using me and not me using opiates. I've done things I've NEVER thought I'd do before all in an effort to help me score. I would never wish that jail to anybody; the jail within your own body! We'll see but so far the withdrawal symptoms (cold/hot sweats, irritability, anger, anxiety, depressed) are in check. I started experiencing having to go to the bathroom which kind of brought me joy because I felt like "this stuff is working, the opiate crap is leaving my body". So if the worst is I have gross shits and some cold/sweats here and there, compared to what I've experienced in my past attempts to stop... Shit, Ill take it! rust me, I can take 15-20 of the 10mg pills daily! EASY! I love opiates, how they take pain away, how they make me feel better... but it was taking over my life. That was the relationship I've cared about for the last 10 years over my beautiful family. I have vacations I can't remember because I'd also use Xanax just because and those things make me very forgetful--I didn't even know how bad I was forgetting things. I just didn't realize how I'd gotten out of control. I can never get time back... but I have something to look forward to. The other day I cried, It felt good to cry because at least I was feeling something, I haven't had any feelings for so long... just a numb, high junkee. Forget that, never again!!!

06/08/2018

James

This is all very interesting and probably known for years and years but no one dare let the medicinal benefits get out because of all that pharmaceutical and booze sin tax cash. I wonder how many people had to die before they finally said "ok we better let them release this info" and legalize it already...…. Just sayin...….

13/08/2018

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