Could MMJ Products Affect the US Opioid Epidemic?

A massive opioid epidemic is currently sweeping the United States, creating a shocking increase in overdoses and deaths. Although some people are prescribed painkillers (like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl) for chronic pain issues, there are also many who use opioids as recreational drugs. For those who are using opioids as prescribed, it’s possible that an increase in the usage of medical marijuana products could actually encourage people to switch from opioids to MMJ. Because medical cannabis can help treat a number of physical symptoms, researchers are trying to determine if MMJ products could create a significant decrease in opioid usage – resulting in slowing down the opioid epidemic, or even stopping it in its tracks.

The current crisis of opioid abuse began in the late 1990s, when there were around 4,000 overdose deaths taking place every year. In the last two decades, the numbers have skyrocketed – more than 64,000 Americans died in 2016 from overdoses (compared to the  more than 52,000 that died in 2015). That figure means that nearly 180 people die from opioid-related overdoses every single day in the U.S., making it the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50. Over two million Americans are considered to be dependent on opioids, while at least 95 million individuals used prescription painkillers during 2017.

If steps aren’t taken to hit back against the epidemic soon, public health experts estimate that over 500,000 individuals could die from opioid overdoses in the next 10 years. The federal government has tried to boost some drug enforcement measures and is pushing regulations to get doctors to write fewer prescriptions for opioid painkillers. However, it will take at least until 2020 for any of the effects of these measures to be noticed, which means that the only hope the country has is to think outside the box to limit the growing number of people using and abusing opioids.

MMJRecs - painkillers

The overuse and abuse of prescription painkillers has become a real problem in the U.S. in recent years.

One possibility for curbing the epidemic is to use medical marijuana products to treat chronic pain instead of prescription painkillers. Several studies have shown that medical cannabis can be used to effectively treat pain symptoms. In a recent study, elderly patients who started using MMJ products were able to lower their pain levels (and experience an improved quality of life). More than 70 percent were able to see a moderate to significant improvement. Overall, 93 percent of the elderly reported improvements in their overall health. After six months, more than 18 percent of the medical marijuana users had reduced or completely stopped using opioids to treat their pain symptoms.

Switching from opioids to medical marijuana has tons of benefits. MMJ products are much safer since they don’t have the potency of opioids (which result in dangerous and often lethal overdoses). Most opioids also work so that individuals end up needing more and more of the drug to feel its effects – something that doesn’t apply to medical cannabis. There are also way less side effects from using MMJ products (usually mild symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, or mental clouding) than from using opioids.

Another recent study conducted in Minnesota (published by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Medical Cannabis) also demonstrates how an increase in MMJ usage could lead to a decrease in opioid dependence. The first-of-its-kind study included 2,245 people who enrolled in a medical marijuana program during the last few months of 2016. The results showed that 38 percent of patients were able to reduce their opioid usage, and 42 percent reported a pain reduction of 30 percent or more. Of the 353 patients who self-reported taking opioid medications during the time they used the MMJ, 63 percent reduced or eliminated their opioid use after six months. The research manager for the office of medical cannabis, Dr. Tom Arneson, said, “These survey results are a good starting point. We need more research into the potential value of medical cannabis in pain management, especially as our communities grapple with the harmful impacts of opioids and other medications now in use for that purpose. We encourage health care providers to read the full report as they consider whether medical cannabis should be part of their strategies for treating patients’ intractable pain.”

MMJRecs - small cannabis plant

Could MMJ products be a key factor in overcoming the U.S.’s opioid epidemic?

If more research is conducted, even more credence would be lent to the concept that MMJ products can safely and effectively treat pain symptoms. Reducing the number of people being prescribed painkillers could greatly impact the rising trend of overdoses in the U.S. from these medications – this factor might even prevent some individuals from being prescribed opioids in the first place.

The opioid epidemic is also creating a very large impact on the U.S. economy – a recent study from 2016 stated that opioid overdoses, abuse, and dependence have cost the economy around $78.5 billion. However, the White House stated in late 2017 that the opioid epidemic has cost the U.S. closer to an estimated $504 billion. Either way, using more MMJ products instead of prescribing painkillers could actually help boost the economy.

There are many benefits to using MMJ products for people experiencing symptoms of chronic pain, including a lower likelihood of dependence and side effects. If the U.S. wants to truly make a dent in the opioid epidemic, the health care field should consider including medical marijuana products as much as possible in their treatment plans. Their patients could benefit from the usage of medical cannabis, while also helping the country to cut down on individuals addicted to painkillers. Using MMJ products could also lower the costs the economy is incurring from the overuse of opioids. It definitely seems worth it for health care professionals and patients alike to consider using MMJ products to help cut down the use of opioids.

How to Curb Sugar Cravings After Smoking Medical Cannabis

You’ve smoked some medical cannabis. You’re feeling great. Then all of a sudden you get the urge to eat everything in sight. You promised yourself the last time that that was the last time. The plan was to resist the temptation to gorge. But it just feels so right. Once everything edible in sight is out of sight (and into your belly), you ransack the food cupboards and the fridge. Things you would have never considered before are making their debuts. You’re creating gastronomical gems that would have Wolfgang Puck weeping with joy.

Then the effects of the medical cannabis start to fade and you’re left with the destruction of your gluttony: empty packets of the fattiest, sweetest junk food you never even knew you had litter the floor and stare up at you in judgment, and a protruding stomach follows you wherever you go. Yes, every smoker has been on the receiving end of cannabis’ most notorious effect: the munchies. And, though for many the binge may be minor – or desirable for certain ailments and diseases (anorexia or HIV/AIDS come to mind) -, many others are binging hard and putting on unwanted weight.

This article is directed toward the latter group. We will walk you through the science of marijuana-induced food cravings and provide a powerful method to curb those cravings. Before we begin, don’t forget to get your medical cannabis card online if you haven’t already! Alright, now onto the main content.    

Why Does Smoking Medical Cannabis Cause Cravings?

medical cannabis sugar cravings

Stay away from sugary foods after smoking medical cannabis.

Smoking weed modifies two processes in the body that cause the munchies: olfaction (the capacity for smelling) and appetite regulation. We’ll discuss both processes and their weed-induced adaptations below.

Fasting from food for brief periods can increase the level of natural cannabinoids in the mammalian brain, which, in turn, triggers us to eat more when we’re hungry. What’s interesting is that it’s specifically the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the nose – specifically the olfactory bulb (the primary brain region controlling the sense of smell) – which leads to an acute sense of smell that causes the devouring of grub.

Studies have shown that endocannabinoids (cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems) can disinhibit circuits of the olfactory bulb when triggered. When these receptors are activated by external cannabinoids, such as those found in marijuana, the consumption rate goes up again. Research points to THC causing the increased sense of smell. So our main tip to curb your cravings: find a strain low in THC and high in CBD. Note: strains low in THC are non-psychoactive, so if that’s something you require for you ailment, use a combination of the tips below instead.

medical cannabis sugar cravings

Many people use medical cannabis as a painkiller – but it can also cause serious hunger!

A connection exists between leptin and cannabinoids. Scientists have shown mice that don’t make leptin have oversized appetites and they have unusually high concentrations of cannabinoids in the hypothalamus (which deals with hunger control amongst other homeostatic systems). Young-Hwan Jo, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, took a look at slices of mouse hypothalamus. When he brought cannabinoid compound into contact with neurons, the neurons fired. But when he first added leptin (also known as the “hunger hormone”), the neurons did not activate. Leptin helps keep hunger at bay by ensuring that the cannabinoids in the brain and throughout the gut are not over-activating. So our second tip: eat foods that increase leptin sensitivity and induce proper utilization of the hormone. Creating a leptin diet is beyond the scope of this article, but lean proteins, oatmeal, green tea and fish are some great examples (do not under any circumstances combine them!).

Another great tip: don’t rely on willpower, be prepared. Don’t expect yourself to act in times of weakness the same as you do in times of strength. Willpower is a finite thing, so depend upon it as little as possible! Instead, simply get rid of the temptation, and willpower is no longer needed. This may mean clearing your house of all the junk food. Or, if you’re really a slave to your temptations, it may mean also giving your wallet to someone you can trust until the effects have worn off. In addition, either prepare healthy snacks beforehand to satiate the certain hunger, or just fast/lower calories approaching your smoke and binge guilt-free!   

 

And that brings us to the end! Try out this method and let us know what you think, and don’t forget – you need a medical cannabis card in order to take advantage of the many unique health benefits of cannabis.

Is Medical Marijuana Better Than Prescription Pills?

People with California medical marijuana cards have been reporting that cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy, glaucoma, anxiety disorder, depression, and insomnia.  

Not only is medical cannabis showing a great ability to ease the painful symptoms of disease, but it is also showing potential for actually improving health and functionality in its users. Research from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom has found that cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in cannabis, can help to reduce brain damage and improve neurological functioning following a stroke. Another study, from the National Cancer Institute, found that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors.

The use of medical marijuana has no known severe side-effects. A Canadian study conducted on 215 patients with chronic pain found that after using medical marijuana for one year, patients “had no greater risk than non-users (control group) to experience serious adverse events”. Many people have been using their cannabis card for years and have reported no ill effects, and only positive, life-enhancing results.

Prescription painkillers, on the other hand, seem to be doing a lot of damage to a lot of people.

Prescription painkillers can have a number of adverse side-effects that can lead to severe health complications for users. People have reported side-effects such as liver spots, severe headaches, and bleeding gums. Opioid painkillers can lead to chronic constipation, which can lead to colon cancer down the line.

A 2008 study showed that the common symptoms associated with opioid-based prescription painkillers include “sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression”. It went on to say that, “Physical dependence and addiction are clinical concerns that may prevent proper prescribing and in turn inadequate pain management. Less common side effects may include delayed gastric emptying, hyperalgesia, immunologic and hormonal dysfunction, muscle rigidity, and myoclonus.” That’s quite a list of negatives!

A recent study has shown that opioid drugs used to relieve pain in cancer patients may stimulate the growth and spread of tumors.

The physical effects of using your California medical card certainly seem to be safer than asking your doctor to prescribe painkillers.

medical marijuana

Prescription painkillers can have much worse side-effects than medical marijuana.

Addiction is another major issue. American citizens make up 5% of the world’s population, yet they consume 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. Prescription painkillers can be highly addictive. They are often derived from the same sources as other highly addictive drugs such as heroin and morphine. They are frequently abused by adults and teenagers alike. 54.2% of pain pills in the US are obtained free from a friend or relative.

Tolerance to prescription painkillers tends to build up quickly, so people need to take more and more to get the same effect. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that prescription drug abuse in the USA is an epidemic. As of 2010, an estimated 52 million Americans over the age of 12 use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

Experts believe that the rise in heroin use could be in part due to prescription painkiller abuse. When people become hooked on prescription painkillers, but then can’t get a hold of any, they often turn to heroin. So those people who peddle the old myth that marijuana is a ‘gateway drug’ should be leveling that accusation at prescription painkillers, which have a great deal more in common with harmful and illegal drugs like heroin than cannabis does.

medical marijuana

Medical marijuana has proved to be a much more effective remedy than prescription painkillers in a lot of cases.

Medical cannabis is non-addictive, and there is no evidence that you need to constantly up your dosage due to developing a tolerance to it. People use their California marijuana card for years at the same levels without needing to up the dose.

With the number of people addicted to painkillers increasing year on year, it seems that medical marijuana could provide a valuable and safe treatment alternative.

Both medical cannabis and prescription painkillers have potential psychoactive side effects, but the long-term effects of cannabis use seem to be much safer. Studies show that long term opiate use can lead to decreased brain function. Whereas most strains of cannabis, particularly low THC/high CBD strains, appear to have little to no effect on cognitive function at all. So for people suffering from chronic pain, your 420 card could offer similar relief to a prescription painkiller but without the negative effects of long-term opiate use on cognitive function.

Deaths caused by prescription drug overdose outnumber deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined. Every 19 minutes someone dies in the United States of a prescription drug overdose. 17,000 people die of prescription pill overdoses per year. There are zero recorded deaths related to cannabis overdose. Ever. This is a big difference!

The legalization of the mm card may be a big factor in a 25% decrease in opiate-related deaths in the states that have legalized mmj so far. That’s a 25% reduction in deaths caused by pain pills, heroin, and morphine.

Pain medication should make your quality of life better, but it seems that a lot of current prescription painkillers in fact make people’s lives worse. Taking prescription pain-pills can lead to physical dependence and chronic, life-threatening side effects. Medical marijuana is very effective at relieving pain, and is less dangerous than opiates.

So it seems that getting yourself a California medical marijuana card may well be a better option than using prescription pills.

 

Feature Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay