Medical Marijuana & the Opioid Crisis

America in Pain — Part 2

Read Part 1 of America in Pain — the Opioid Crisis HERE >

We are at a crisis point. The pressure is mounting. A line of demarcation has been drawn with the ink of history. America is at a turning point.

Why are people in so much pain? Why do we need so many new drugs to relieve our bodies? What has changed and now plagues us? Why do some use diversion tactics to get even more pills and stronger dosages?

Mankind’s proliferation of diseases and addictions has created an ever-expanding healthcare ecosystem. Pain is everywhere. Companies are racing in labs to find new answers and new cures. And some of the answers developed thus far can trigger addictions in some patients unbeknownst prior to prescribing and dispensing.

Medical Marijuana and Opioid Crisis

Footsteps of Our Ancestors

Long before the days of the FDA, retail and specialty pharmacies, and government regulations, the healing and curative nature of plants existed. Documentation of the use of Medicinal Marijuana dates back to roughly 2,900 BC in China. The Cannabis plant has healing properties our ancestors experienced whether it was with a medicine man, a shaman, or the community healer. Why was Cannabis “the drug of choice” often times among our ancestors? What gives Cannabis its distinctive healing properties? Is history repeating itself, allowing Medicinal Marijuana to return to us with enhanced understanding and intelligence to restore health? It is now legal in 29 states plus the District of Columbia.

Do you know that Marijuana is comprised of over 113 different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids? Most mammals, including humans, have an endocannabinoid system through which these specific compounds interact sparking treatment and healing at multiple levels, depending upon the issues being addressed. Our ancestors might not have understood the anatomy and physiology of the body the way we do today, but they did understand the healing properties of Medicinal Marijuana and its many uses.

The two most well known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Both CBD and THC are characterized by their ability to act on the cannabinoid receptors that are part of our endocannabinoid system. THC is the main psychoactive component of Cannabis and has certain medical uses; CBD is both non-psychoactive and displays a broad range of tremendous potential medical applications.

Common uses for THC:

  • Anti-emetic
  • Muscle relaxant
  • Pain relief
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Sleep induction
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Relaxation

Common uses for CBD:

  • Analgesia
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Neuroprotectant
  • Antioxidant
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anti-psychotic
  • Anti-tumor

Over time, pharmacy will be more and more on the cutting edge of working with one of the oldest plant medicines on the earth. Hence, pharmacists need to be informed and to become informants regarding Cannabis so that they can be prepared to assume a leadership position on Medicinal Marijuana. Clinical and safety recommendations, drug interactions, and policies and procedures for use are just a few roles the pharmacist will eventually don.

Times Are Changing

Opioid addiction is now running rampant, and lives are being laid to waste and to rest in this onslaught. Is it possible that we can successfully treat opioid addiction with Medical Marijuana? Cannabis therapy has already been in use for addiction recovery for more than 100 years. According to Tod H. Mikkuriya, M.D. (1969), as stated in Marijuana Medicine — “Because Cannabis did not lead to physical dependence, it was found to be superior to the opiates for a number of therapeutic purposes. Birch, in 1889, reported success in treating opiate and chloral addiction with Cannabis, and Mattison in 1891 recommended its use to the young physician, comparing it favorably with the opiates.” At the beginning of 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a ground-breaking report  underlining hard evidence that Cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain (read report).

The Roadblocks

Opioid addiction is an epidemic and adding it to the list of qualifying conditions for Medicinal Marijuana use is not too far down the road – once the roadblocks are toppled. We already know opioids are woven through the threads of large-scale economics and politics. For instance, pharmaceutical companies have paid out more than $2.5 billion into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade. And, marijuana’s status under federal law as a Schedule I Drug makes it difficult for researchers to study. Scientists have to first apply for a license from the Drug Enforcement Agency, which can takes years to receive.

In the meantime, while we work to cut through the red tape, many chronic pain patients and others have figured out the effects of Marijuana, taking it into their own hands to use it as medicine. Globe Newswire— Aclara Research, a leader in the development of patient and consumer insights within the Cannabis industry, released the preliminary results of their latest study explaining Illinois patient usage of Medical Cannabis and the impact on prescription opioid usage. The study found that 67 percent of patients stopped using opioid medications after using Medical Cannabis. Also, a new study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that Medicinal Marijuana might be the key to the opioid epidemic. In 2011, 55% of drug overdose deaths were related to prescription medications in which 75% of those cases involved opiate painkillers. Researchers, however, discovered that opiate-induced deaths decreased by approximately 33% in the 13 states where marijuana was legal over a period of 6 years after its legalization.

We are at a fork in the road. We disclosed only what is prevalently out there in the air-waves. It’s time though to genuinely make a difference. The days of the stigma in regards to a plant medicine that pushed through the soil thousands of years ago is in the rear view mirror. The drug companies are still very much needed as well as one of our most anciently cultivated and used medicines from nature’s fields. We can all work together, and when we do, what can we not do?

Managing Medical Marijuana in Pharmacy

KeyCentrix’s mortar and pestle is our NewLeafRx pharmacy management software that was designed and built knowing that the day would come when the leaves of specialty pharmacy would grow ever more so. We are ready for the change and are here to help pharmacies everywhere prepare for this new medicine. KeyCentrix has created advanced tools for the future of pharmacy such as the ability to track usage and patient outcomes to name a few. To learn more about NewLeafRx’s extensive features and capabilities in helping pharmacies bridge changes visit our December 2017 blog to view a more in depth read.

Read Part 1 of America in Pain — the Opioid Crisis HERE >

LISTEN IN – KeyCentrix Pharmacy Podcasts on Medical Marijuana & the Opioid Crisis >

Did you find this blog informative and helpful? Do you have something to contribute? Are there other topics you would like to see in our upcoming blog posts? We welcome your comments, always.

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