Anyone with a serious medical illness is likely swallowing prescription drugs to manage their symptoms. Unfortunately, drug interactions are a notable risk with Big Pharma’s medications. To avoid complications, you need to know exactly what you are taking and be aware of potential adverse reactions associated with it, whether common or not.
This is of particular importance if your doctor prescribes opiates or narcotics for your condition. It is possible for even seemingly harmless drugs to have severe, even lethal, side effects. Fortunately, studies prove cannabis more effective, and safer, than any drugs Big Pharma has to offer. If your state has a medical marijuana program, then you likely qualify as a medical marijuana patient.
However, as with all substances, one must ask how, or even if, cannabis interacts with prescription medications. Unlike most of Big Pharma’s drugs, weed has little to no possible interacts to worry about. In fact, many patients find that adding marijuana to their existing treatment plan maximizes its effectiveness. Called the additive effect, it is clear that weed can only help your current treatment.
The Difference between Opiates and Narcotics
To know if it is safe to consume weed with either narcotics or opioids, you must understand the difference between the two. Although all opiates are narcotics, it is important to note that not all narcotics are opiates. Opiates originate from opium poppy seeds, as does codeine, morphine, and some other psychoactive drugs.
Narcotics, on the other hand, include opiates, opiate-derivatives, and synthetic drugs promising the same effects. Today, for the sake of clarity, most refer to narcotics as opioids, and some of the most commonly prescribed of them include Vicodin and Percocet. There are not many differences between opiates and narcotics, as all of them share some, if not all, of the following characteristics:
- Both narcotics and opiates treat pain and other serious health symptoms.
- Doctors do not prescribe either lightly, and both are under heavy regulation.
- Both classes of drugs can potentially cause adverse side effects, even fatalities.
- There is close monitoring of interactions with these and other drugs or substances.
- The risk of addiction is extremely high for both drug classes.
- Both opiates and narcotics are responsible for a widespread epidemic of abuse.
Is Using Cannabis with Opioids Dangerous?
As a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis is a federally prohibited substance. This illegality makes research difficult for scientists to conduct, and it creates a negative stigma around a plant with miraculous healing potential. Many physicians fear prescribing opioids together with marijuana, simply because there is a notable lack of research on potential interactions.
Many are afraid that since both marijuana and opioids have sedative and psychoactive properties, it will create a dangerous combination. They also fear that combining the two will increase a patient’s risk for substance abuse.
However, as more patients use cannabis, there is growing evidence this treatment option has many positive benefits. Plus, there’s no evidence of any harmful interactions between marijuana and opioids that patients should be afraid of.
Studies have found the following in patients who use marijuana in conjunction with opioid therapy:
- No increased risk of dependency for either type of medication
- No increase in opioid blood level concentrations
- No increase in danger or potency of opioids
- A safe increase in pain management effectiveness
The Opioid Epidemic
With the abuse of prescription opioids on the rise, the medical community is searching for a safer alternative to pain management. Because patients can develop an unhealthy dependence to opioids over time, the abuse and overdose of the drugs are becoming an epidemic, according to the CDC. They’re striving to make the nation aware of startling statistics surrounding this topic:
- Over 15,000 people died of an opioid overdose in 2015
- Nearly 2 million people in the U.S. are dependent on prescription opioids
- One in four people who are prescribed opioids struggle with addiction
- About 1000 people go to the emergency room every day because they have misused opioids
With these troubling statistics on the rise, it’s no wonder why government officials and physicians are searching for a solution. Medical marijuana could be the answer.
Could Medical Marijuana Eliminate Opioid Abuse?
Not only is medical marijuana safe to use in conjunction with prescription opioids, but it may be the answer to the abuse of these narcotics, as well. If a patient is using opioids to help manage painful symptoms associated with their condition, chances are, dependence on the drugs will only grow. If they combine their opioid use with cannabis treatments, it allows them to break this cycle of dependence and potential abuse.
When a patient uses medical marijuana, doctors can prescribe lower doses of opioids. This would reduce both the risk of dependency and the severity of the side effects associated with the drugs. Ideally, patients will eventually be able to eliminate their opioid use altogether.
ince marijuana has less risk for dependency and fewer adverse side effects, it’s a much safer option for pain management than prescription narcotics. In fact, one study found the rate of opioid-related deaths was 25 percent less in states where medical marijuana is legalized.
More Information About Medical Marijuana Treatments
If you live in a state where medical marijuana has been legalized and would like to pursue this treatment course, your first step is to speak to a qualified medical professional. Doctors who are certified to prescribe cannabis are available to meet with you and answer any of your questions.
If you’d like more information on this subject, contact a physician in your state or a medical marijuana dispensary near you. These professionals will be able to answer your questions based on your unique circumstances.