DEC 15, 2020 8:33 AM PST

Could Cannabis Help in the Opioid Crisis?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

While cannabis is increasingly available for medicinal use, doctors largely remain unable to prescribe it to their patients even in the case of using something like full spectrum CBD. Nevertheless, it shows potential for treating patients post-surgery and could perhaps one day reduce reliance on opioids. 

"There is a large gap in our understanding of how cannabis can be used to help treat surgical patients," writes Camille Stewart, MD, in an article recently published in JAMA Surgery. "There is a critical need for additional research on the effects of perioperative cannabis with specific attention to postoperative outcomes, not only because of its potential benefits but also because of its current widespread use outside Western medicine." 

While cannabis is known to inhibit inflammation and malignancy, so far, these findings have been limited to laboratory experiments. However, other evidence does exist supporting its usage for pain relief, nausea, and insomnia- effects that may decrease reliance on opiates and benzodiazepines post-surgery. 

Due to its strict regulation and issues with its purity and homogeneity, surgeons find it difficult to accept or significantly explore its medical effects. Nevertheless, there are currently prospective trials exploring applications for cannabis on surgical patients. 

"The differences in state laws between cannabis and all other controlled substances and its current listing as a Schedule I drug by the DEA add a layer of difficulty to studying its potential benefits in high-quality prospective clinical research. High-quality research on cannabis will likely not be possible unless it is treated as all other medications to ensure proper dosing, safety, and homogeneity." writes Stewart. 

While cannabis has hardly been studied for surgical applications, some research has recently been published showing how general cannabis use affects a patient's need for anesthetics during surgery. From a retrospective study, researchers found that those who used cannabis prior to surgery tended to need higher anesthetic doses during surgery than those who did not use the substance. 

 

Sources: Medical NewsJAMA NetworkLabRoots

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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