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Cannabis: Friend or Foe (a 3-part exploration)

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No matter your stance on the issue, there is no changing the fact that marijuana has been around for a very long time. As a matter of fact, it has been around for thousands of years and used for pain relief. It is even documented as an anesthetic in the late 2nd century in ancient China. Marijuana was being used right up until the early 1900s when false information and fears lead to the restriction and criminalization of its use. (think back to the movie “Reefer Madness”)

This month, we will set out, not to change your stance on marijuana, but to present facts that may help you come to see this ancient plant in a new light. Specifically, we will discuss the effects cannabis has on chronic pain, PTSD, and insomnia. While this is far from a comprehensive list, it will provide a snap shot on the possibilities to come.

With the opioid crisis at an all-time high, the current health care climate has been ready to re-evaluate marijuana and its role in medicine. Old stigmas about addiction potential have been explored and proved inaccurate. For instance, in 2017 a study was done to see if these new state policies lead to marijuana dependence or abuse discharges within hospitals and could find nothing to support this hypothesis. They did find the opposite, however, with a 23% reduction in opioid dependence/abuse discharges with the legalization of medical marijuana.

Another cross-sectional study of patients with chronic pain using medical marijuana had similarly promising results. They were able to find a 64% reduction in opioid use as well as decreased side effects from pain medications and increased quality of life with users of medical cannabis.  Opioid overdose rates dropped by 24.9% in the states where marijuana was legalized.

So, as we complete our first week in Marijuana education, what the main takeaway points? 1) While no medication, marijuana included, can be guaranteed 100% safe, the safety profile of medical cannabis exceeds that of opioids. 2) Opioid overdose rates decreased when marijuana for chronic pain was legal 3) Increased quality of life was noted in 64% of medical cannabis users for chronic pain.


-Brooke Rieth NP

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