Opioid addiction has proven to be a difficult problem for governments around the world and the situation is approaching crisis levels here. In Alberta and British Columbia, the number of fentanyl-related deaths have increased by a factor of ten in just three years.
It is also taking a financial toll. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the government spent $93 million in 2014 on medications that treat people with opioid addictions. That is up more than $35 million from the total spent three years earlier.
People with chronic pain conditions absolutely deserve relief, but scientists have struggled as to how they can provide that respite from sometimes crippling discomfort, without also causing the recipient to spiral into addiction.
Medical marijuana has been increasingly accepted as a source of pain relief for people with people with neuropathic conditions. In sharp contrast to opioids, pot is rarely addictive and it is largely impossible to overdose on it. Marijuana is also effective at reducing discomfort from muscle spasms brought on by multiple sclerosis, as well as other forms of relief. Some scientists feel that we would be much further along in medical marijuana use if the drug’s legal status was made clear across the globe.
Scientists report that pot interacts with the same brain receptors as opioids. Tests are currently under way on how medical marijuana compares to drugs like fentanyl when it comes to effectiveness at treating both chronic and acute pain. There is also hope that pot can help to alleviate the serious discomfort one undergoes from opioid withdrawal.
Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada in 2018, and that will no doubt lead some with various types of pain to feel more confident about trying it. The official prognosis remains to be seen, but it is hopeful that medical marijuana will help provide a solution to one of the most serious health crises in some time.