Cannabis Ineffectiveness in Opioid Addiction Treatment Revealed

Cannabis, often hailed for its potential in managing pain and various health issues, may not be an effective remedy for opioid addiction, according to a study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 

This peer-reviewed research scrutinized thousands undergoing treatment for opioid use disorder, ultimately asserting that cannabis exhibits “no significant effect on people’s use of opioids” outside of medical guidance.

Opioids, powerful painkillers with a high potential for addiction, include prescription drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone, as well as illicit substances such as heroin and synthetic drug fentanyl. 

The United States grapples with an ongoing opioid crisis, particularly concerning the potent fentanyl, contributing to 80,411 overdose deaths in 2021, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Joao P. De Aquino and a team of researchers, including members from the University of Ribeirão Preto in Brazil, spearheaded the study. 

Despite the increasing popularity of the idea that cannabis can aid in weaning people off opioids, the study results challenge this notion. 

The researchers emphasized the urgent need for evidence-based addiction treatment, as they highlighted the substantial implications for existing opioid treatment programs.

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Cannabis Study Criticized for Lacking Control Factors 

cannabis-ineffectiveness-opioid-addiction-treatment
Cannabis, often hailed for its potential in managing pain and various health issues, may not be an effective remedy for opioid addiction, according to a study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers analyzed 10 longitudinal studies involving 8,367 individuals receiving medication (buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone) for opioid use disorder. 

Over an average monitoring period of 10 months, the study found no significant association between cannabis use and rates of non-medical opioid use, including misuse and overdose.

While some may argue against the study’s conclusions, Dr. Sherry Yafai, an emergency medicine physician, criticized it for lacking control factors, such as dosage, cannabis type, administration method, and THC levels. 

She emphasized the study’s failure to consider the context of cannabis use and underscored the importance of physician guidance in treating opioid use disorder.

Dr. Benjamin Caplan, a family physician and cannabis advocate, highlighted the struggle against decades of biased literature. 

He shared his observations that incorporating cannabis into treatment regimens has led to a significant reduction in opioid reliance for many patients, offering a gentler and more manageable form of relief. 

Caplan emphasized the need to distinguish correlation from causation in scientific literature and the critical role of responsible physician guidance.

In navigating the complex landscape of opioid addiction treatment, this study contributes to the ongoing conversation about the role of cannabis, urging a nuanced and evidence-based approach to address the multifaceted challenges posed by opioid use disorder.

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