Medical Cannabis Can be an Effective Opioid Substitute


Opioids and THC have analgesic effects because they block pain signals in our nervous system. THC is a plant cannabinoid, most commonly known for its psychoactive effects and causing the “high” associated with cannabis consumption. The THC cannabinoid binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system, while opioids bind to opioid receptors.

CBD is another cannabinoid that is known for its therapeutic effects. It binds to many different receptors in the brain and can lessen the effects of THC. Evidence suggests CBD can reduce drug cravings and opioid withdrawal symptoms, which suggests CBD could be an effective treatment for opioid addiction.

Opioids and THC in combination offer comparable pain-relieving effects compared to opioids alone. This interaction can be used to reduce opioid doses for pain management and slowly wean patients off opioid medications altogether as they switch to cannabis-based treatments.

Several studies indicate that cannabis interacts with opioids and alters the associated pain-relieving effects. When co-administered, patients can use a lower dose of opioids and achieve the same level of pain relief, thereby reducing the risk of side effects and addiction.

Cannabinoid and opioid pain-relieving effects both work by binding to receptors at the surface of cells and setting off a sequence of events in the cell that result in no pain signal release. The parallel mechanisms of action for opioids and cannabis allow for effective pain relief with co-administration.

For these reasons, cannabis is believed to supplement the effectiveness of opioids in pain management. When THC and morphine are used together, for example, the same level of pain relief is observed at lower doses compared to morphine treatments alone.

If implemented, this treatment method could be effective in reducing opioid use and the associated negative side effects. Patients could start taking smaller doses of opioids to avoid addiction and relapse, since the addition of THC would provide comparable pain relief. This has the potential to effectively wean patients off their opioid regimen. Further research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms of interaction between opioids and cannabinoids, and to investigate new treatment plans for patients seeking improved chronic pain management.

Much more at Leafly

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