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Cannabis in Place of Opioids? Experts at World Medical Cannabis Conference Make the Argument

At a recent expo, physicians and cannabis experts had a discussion on the potential of replacing opioids with cannabis for pain management.

A panel of cannabis experts and medical professionals discussed cannabis’ potential as a safer and more effective alternative to opioids last month at the first-ever World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo. The conference, which took place April 21-22 in Pittsburgh, was dedicated to the medical science of cannabis.

Speakers on the panel included cannabis researcher and doctoral candidate Kevin Boehnke; Delaware-based physician Dr. Matthew Roman; practicing emergency physician Dr. Bryan Doner; New York Times Bestselling author and former NFL player Nate Jackson, and edible creator and instructor Captain Kirk Reid.

The hour-long “From Opioids to Cannabis” panel discussed the gravity of the nation’s epidemic of opioid overdose, which claims the lives of 91 Americans every day, and the evidence that suggests cannabis may be able to help. Opioids, commonly prescribed for pain management, carry a high risk of abuse, addiction and overdose. Since 1999, opioid deaths have quadrupled. Opioid abuse has been estimated to cost over $72 billion in medical costs.

“I deal with this type of thing every day, every shift,” Dr. Doner said. “From overdoses to addiction, to chronic pain, this is something that’s intrinsically important to me not only professionally but personally.”

Dr. Roman explained that the majority of patients that come to him for help are suffering from chronic pain and have tried to find relief with opioids, also commonly referred to as narcotics.

“Many in heavy doses, and Delaware is especially bad for that,” Roman said. Delaware saw its number of fentanyl (synthetic opioid) overdose more than double in 2016 compared to the year before. “What I’ve been finding is that [medical marijuana] works. It does so and I know so because narcotics are going down. What they’re getting prescribed is going down.”

Medical Marijuana Research

According to the DEA, cannabis has never caused a fatal overdose, and several recent studies indicate that cannabis may be the answer to America’s opioid epidemic. Marijuana has shown the ability to reduce the intake of opioids and potentially treat addiction. In one study, medical cannabis significantly reduced opioid use while simultaneously improving pain levels and functional outcome. Studies have long established cannabis and its cannabinoids effective for reducing pain.

“That’s one of the few conditions where there’s that body of evidence in the published, peer-reviewed scientific literature forum,” said Boehnke. “So when it comes to chronic pain there seems to be this clear evidence that this is extremely useful.”

Boehnke was one of three researchers that last year found medical cannabis use to be associated with a nearly two-thirds drop in the consumption of opioids.

“We found that they decreased their opioid use by about 64 percent,” said Boehnke. “At the personal level we’re finding that people are decreasing their use. We found that this was because many of them said they had fewer medication side effects and they had a better quality of life.”

A recent in-depth poll from Yahoo News and The Marist Poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe marijuana is safer for pain management than opioid prescription drugs.

Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s CEO Dr. Stuart Titus also participated in the World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo. At the panel, “Industrial Hemp & the Opportunities Outside of CBD,” Dr. Titus discussed the benefits of industrial hemp and its untapped economic potential in the U.S. Additionally, Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s subsidiary HempMeds® was a platinum sponsor of the two-day event.

Learn more about cannabis’ potential for pain management on our education page. Keep up with the growing legal cannabis industry by regularly visiting our news feed.

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Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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