Could marijuana help treat painkiller and heroin addiction?
The growing number of patients who claim marijuana has helped them drop their painkiller habit has intrigued lawmakers and emboldened advocates. Many are pushing for cannabis as a treatment for the abuse of opioids and illegal narcotics such as heroin, and as an alternative to painkillers.
It’s a tempting sell in New England, hard hit by the painkiller and heroin crisis. But there’s a problem: There is very little research showing marijuana works as a treatment for such addictions.
Advocates argue a growing body of scientific literature supports the idea, pointing to a study in the Journal of Pain this year that found that chronic pain sufferers significantly reduced their opioid use when taking medical cannabis. Another study, published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found cannabis can be effective in treating chronic pain and other ailments.
The research falls short of concluding marijuana helps wean people off opioids – Vicodin, Oxycontin and related painkillers – and heroin, though. Many medical professionals say there’s not enough evidence for them to confidently prescribe it.
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