According to the research, cannabis is not effective when it comes to treating individuals struggling with opioid use disorder. While some may have considered cannabis as a promising solution for opioid addiction, McMaster University researchers have shown that it is not the answer scientists are looking for.
Researchers found and analyzed the results of six studies including more than 3,600 participants undergoing methadone maintenance therapy, a common treatment for opioid use disorder. They found that cannabis use neither decreases the number of people who illicitly use opioids during treatment, nor does it help reduce the number of people who ultimately fail to complete therapy.
Recent research has suggested extracting cannabidiol (CBD) from cannabis to treat cannabis use disorder. A study published in 2015 found that marijuana use more than doubled between 2012 and 2013, and a significant increase in marijuana use disorder cases accompanied.
The American Psychiatry Association defined opioid use disorder as a “chronic lifelong disorder” associated with at least two out of 11 habits defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. Habits include but are not limited to consuming progressively larger amounts of drugs “over a longer period than intended,” failure to manage opioid use, and experience of withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal syndrome.
“Some high-profile organizations have suggested cannabis is an 'exit drug' for illicit opioid use, but we found no evidence to suggest cannabis helps patients with opioid use disorder stop using opioids," explained senior author Dr. Zainab Samaan.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2016, approximately 2.1 million Americans suffered from opioid use disorder. Opioids are most often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain.