People all around the world suffer from a disease, pain, and other medical conditions that cannot be left untreated. Thanks to modern medicine, if you suffer from something like chronic pain from cancer, surgery, or injury, prescription drugs can make your life easier. But, they are not without their risks.
Opioids are one of these “miracle drugs” that can be a blessing but also a curse. Opioids such as oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, and more provide effective pain relief when administered in a medical environment with supervision. However, they also have one of the highest addiction rates of prescription drugs, which is made worse due to their incredibly high prescription rates. Leaving such a dangerous and highly addictive substance in your hands when you’re suffering from pain makes it much easier to abuse them. For this reason, the United States is currently in an opioid epidemic.
What can you do if you suffer from extreme pain but want to avoid the risk of addiction? One of the most popular alternatives is marijuana. Marijuana is a much safer drug that can provide relief without many of the downsides. Choosing between legal marijuana and opioid use could be the difference between stopping or continuing the opioid epidemic. But how does it work?
Similarities Between Legal Marijuana and Opioid Use Effects
When our bodies are under stress or in pain, we release endorphins as well as endo-cannabinoids. These endorphins work to return the body to homeostasis by numbing pain and reducing the production of the stress hormone cortisol. This reaction results in a stress-free, euphoric state that provides you with temporary relief. However, the body is not always able to produce enough of these endorphins on its own, which is why a supplemental drug is used to increase production and availability.
The Effect of Endocannabinoids
Marijuana (also known as cannabis) is an external source of these endocannabinoids that has been shown to have an analgesic effect. They work to suppress the release of excitement hormones by slowing pain signals while also stimulating dopamine production. The endo-cannabinoids attach to endocannabinoid receptors that control parts of your brain’s reward and pain centers. Since dopamine is the “feel good” neurotransmitter, when the brain is flooded with it, it creates the euphoric state that can encourage addiction.
Opioids Effect on the Brain
Similar to marijuana, opioids also act on receptors in the brain which carry pain signals throughout the nervous system. However, the part of the brain that opioid receptors act on mainly increases dopamine production, which leads to higher spikes in dopamine levels. Over time, the unsustainable level of dopamine in your brain diminishes, which leaves the body expecting more – without being able to produce it naturally. A majority of addiction problems come from this. Artificial dopamine production leads to excessive dopamine levels in your brain that it becomes used to, forcing you to feed it dopamine to avoid withdrawals.
Continued after infographic:
How Marijuana Use Can Curb Opiate Addiction
Much of the opiate epidemic stems from overprescribing opioids in cases that they aren’t necessary, which introduces more people to the dangers they present. To address this, scientists and doctors believe that using legal marijuana over opioid use can help lower the availability of opioids. This would then prevent addiction from forming, reducing the growth of the epidemic, and leading to much safer pain treatment. And because opioids and marijuana produce similar effects on the brain, it makes sense that marijuana would be a suitable, all-natural alternative. The results of the availability of legal marijuana can already be seen in the United States. States that offer medical cannabis dispensaries are seeing a 14% drop in opioid prescription and use.
However, one of the significant hurdles to overcome is the legality of marijuana. It is a Schedule I substance in states where it has not been recreationally legalized. This can make it harder to turn to as an alternative, which means that legalization can go a long way towards slowing the opioid epidemic.
Kick Opiate Prescription Use with Ocean Hills Recovery
Marijuana is a promising development in the fight against opioid addiction, but it cannot cure everything. If you’re already suffering from an addiction, it is not enough (or advised) to start using marijuana. You need a medically supervised detox to ensure its safe to stop.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, your wellbeing is our highest priority. Whether you began with prescription opioids or began using street drugs out of necessity for your pain, the first step to long-term management of pain starts with quitting.
Our addiction treatment center can administer medication to help ease withdrawal symptoms while your body adjusts to your clean lifestyle. We’ll also address any underlying issues that fueled the addiction, providing holistic care during your entire stay. Our team will work with you to plan for your ongoing recovery once you leave, equipping you with the skills and knowledge you need to stay clean.
Don’t let opioid addiction ruin your life – get the help you need today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.