Every day, about 115 people lose their lives following an overdose of opioids in the United States. Misuse of opioids and addiction are being considered a national crisis that should be addressed carefully. In 2015, over 33,000 American lost their lives because of overdosing on opioids. Also, in the same year, about 2 million people were said to suffer from disorders associated with substance use resulting from prescription opioids painkillers. Marijuana, on the other hand, is being legalized in many states, so people may be asking, “Is there any relationship between the two?” “Can cannabis be considered an opiate?” Knowing the difference between the two is vital for those who are concerned about the drugs themselves.


What Are Opiates?

An opiate is a drug that is derived from a plant known as opium poppy and examples include morphine, codeine, opium, and heroin. Morphine and codeine have been listed in the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines. Heroin is a Schedule I drug as described in the Controlled Substances Act. This means that it possesses the potential to make users abuse it something that may, in turn, lead to an addiction. Opioids consist of a broad group of drugs including opiates, synthetic, and semi-synthetic substances that have effects similar to those of opiates. A majority of opioids are classed as Schedule II and III drugs that are legal though their use is restricted. The commonly prescribed opioid medicines include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

The Opioids Menace

Taking opioids without following the doctor’s prescription and instructions may result in abuse, dependence, as well as addiction. Your body can quickly build up a tolerance to the drugs compelling you to increase your dosage to have the same effect you used to get with less. Initially, opioid painkillers were not expected to be addictive, something that resulted in increased rates of prescription by physicians. Eventually, there was a misuse of the drugs before it was found that they were indeed addictive. As the prescriptions of opioids begun to be limited, those already addicted started seeking alternatives like heroin and carfentanil. The latter is thought to be 100 times stronger compared to fentanyl, something that has resulted in more overdose deaths.

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Cannabis Fights Opioids Epidemic

Cannabis has been touted as an effective substance for treating chronic pain. It is one of the substances that can be used to fight the opioid crisis. Since opioids main job is to fight pain, Cannabis can help alleviate pain without the addictive substances the opioids carry. Cannabis helps to eliminate the pain that comes with opioid withdrawal. In states that have eased the marijuana laws, deaths rising from opioid overdose have really started to decrease dramatically.

When combined with opioid pain drugs, marijuana may reduce the side effects associated with opioid use and the cravings. It also reduces the opioid withdrawal severity while also enhancing the opioids’ analgesic effects. This way, the users may have lower doses and reduced risks of overdosing.

Marijuana is Not an Opiate

Cannabis may have the same effects as opiates, however, it is not an opiate. Cannabis is the plant in which marijuana and hemp are derived from. For centuries, hemp has been used in making ropes, paper, and clothes. Marijuana is derived from flowers of various cannabis plants that are considered to have a higher amount of cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient as well as the cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive ingredient. Hemps is said to have no THC.

It’s false to say that marijuana is an opiate. There is no clear drug classification for marijuana, and this is partly because the substance consists of so many chemicals that tend to have varying effects on an individual’s body.

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Marijuana and Opiates Addiction

Marijuana is not as addictive as opiates and it has fewer physical withdrawal symptoms. Marijuana is said to be a Schedule I drug, which also applies to heroin, but not the case with opioids. Under certain state laws, marijuana may be legal, but the federal law doesn’t yet recognize that. It is also clear that the federal law is above the state law, and if the federal government considers marijuana to be illegal, then that’s it. Its decision overrules that of the individual state laws regarding marijuana use.

THC and Opiates

THC is psychoactive and it makes a person get the “high” effects. THC is the substance that many recreational users of marijuana seek. So, you may ask, “Is THC part of the opiates?” Well, the answer is No! THC and opiates are psychoactive as well as euphoric, however, THC is a cannabinoid. The pure form of THC is said to have some legal medical uses, and CBD which is not psychoactive contains the most of the pain-killing properties associated with cannabis.

Marijuana Side Effects

We have said that marijuana isn’t so addictive as opiates, and it can, in fact, be used to replace the addictive opiates when treating chronic pain, however, this does not mean that it is harmless. Taking marijuana produces short-term effects associated with learning, memory, attention, and decision making. Because the adolescent brain continues to develop until the mid-20s, you may find that marijuana or THC may interfere with the growth. In a research study that looked at adolescent marijuana use and the subsequent effect, it found that teens who persistently use marijuana had neuropsychological decline. So, while it may not be as addictive, it can still have a detrimental impact on someone who chooses to use.

Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescription

States that have allowed people to use cannabis for medical treatment have recorded a reduced amount of opioid doses in a specific period. Under Medicare Part D plan, the states that enacted medical marijuana laws saw that daily doses of opioid drug prescription reduced by 2.21 million per year. Using medical marijuana to relieve pain may help reduce the mortality and morbidity associated with the prescription opioids. This is truly inspiring news to those in the industry.

The Bottom Line

Marijuana may not be the miracle substitute drug for treating chronic pain, but at least it does have promising effects compared to opiates. It also helps those struggling with opiate withdrawal. That said, because marijuana may also be addictive though to a lesser extent, if you are addicted to opiates, you may consider it a viable choice, at least for now. People addicted to opiates, marijuana, and other substances should seek help. Chapters Capistrano is here to assist you to understand the legal issues surrounding the use of marijuana for medical purposes and the addiction related to opiates and weed.

Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.

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