Can Medical Cannabis Help Heroin Addicts?

According to numerous different sources, heroin abuse is on the rise in America.

Actually, it has been for a while now with an increasing number of heroin overdose deaths as well. Lawmakers and public health officials across the country are scratching their heads in a quest for solution to this horrible problem, as nothing seems to be helping to stop the epidemic. Many medical professionals have warned that the reason why most of these people became addicted to heroin is their previous addiction to prescription opioid drugs. People start using them, get tolerant and quickly reach a point where it becomes impossible for them to get the amount they “need” so they often turn to the black market where they are introduced to heroin. Interestingly for them, the states that have legalized medical marijuana have all reported a significant decrease in the number of opioid overdose deaths. So what does this mean? Is marijuana, the “gateway” drug, as opponents like to call it, actually precisely the opposite of that?

Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which is a peer-reviewed medical journal, published a study that examined states with legalized medical marijuana and looked into their opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2010. “We were interested in wither the availability of medical marijuana, as an alternative to prescription narcotics for pain management could affect overdose deaths, since medical marijuana isn’t subject to the same susceptibility in terms of unintentional overdoes,” said Colleen Barry, associate chair for research and practice at John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study found a 25 % decrease in deaths from opioid overdose in these states, however, the team behind the research is concerned that there is more to this story than the obvious.

“While there are important risks out there that need to be managed on the regulatory end, our study suggests that there may be unintended benefits of these medical marijuana laws as well — in particular the unintended benefit in reducing opioid overdose deaths,” said Barry.

In January this year, Washington Post wrote a story about the response from Mexican cartels to decreasing demand for Mexican marijuana. As more and more states change their laws and accept legal marijuana, Mexican traffickers are flooding the country with cheap heroin instead. Police officers report on lesser amounts of seized marijuana, while heroin seizures have tripled since 2009 along the border with Mexico. However, the profile of a heroin addict has also changed, as addiction centers report: now they’re treating housewives who have previously been addicted to Vicodin before switching to heroin, or teenagers who thought it was safe to snort here and there, but quickly became addicted.

There are currently about 10 million Americans abusing prescription painkillers. Not all of them would become heroin addicts, but the current number of 600,000 of them keeps growing each day, unfortunately. Marijuana as an alternative to prescription opioids certainly seems to be a better and safer choice, however, there are too many important factors involved here to just take someone’s opinion as a determining factor. Hopefully, more peer reviewed medical marijuana studies are underway.