The Biology of Cannabis vs. Opioids for Pain Relief
Cannabis and opioids are both known for their analgesic, pain-relieving effects. However, opioids are highly addictive—between 1999 and 2014, sales of prescription opioids in the United States quadrupled, with staggering increases in overdoses. In the healthcare system, 49% of patients seeking treatment for pain leave with a prescription. Because the risk of addiction and overdose associated with opioids is so great, finding a drug substitute with less abuse potential is critical.
Amanda Reiman, manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, defines substitution as a “conscious choice to use one drug (legal or illicit) instead of, or in conjunction with, another due to issues such as: perceived safety; level of addiction potential; effectiveness in relieving symptoms; access and level of acceptance.”
It’s important to take these factors into consideration when determining the substitution potential of cannabis. The ideal substitute will perform better than the previous medication by being more safe, effective, and accessible, while also being less addictive.