Medical Marijuana May Help Opioid Addiction, More Research Needed

Medical Marijuana May Help Opioid Addiction, More Research Needed

By Staff

Neurobiologist Yasmin Hurd of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has a beef with the lack of research on how cannabinoids and extracts of cannabis from medical marijuana can reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms of heroin users.  She has been studying how both cannabinoids and opioids act on the brain and recently published her position in Trends in Neurosciences.

“If you look at both drugs and where their receptors are, opioids are much more dangerous, in part because of the potential for overdose-the opioid receptors are very abundant in the brainstem area that regulates our respiration, so they shut down the breathing center if opioid doses are high,” Hurd says. “Cannabinoids don’t do that. They have a much wider window of therapeutic benefit without causing an overdose in adults.”

Both cannabinoids and opioids regulate the perception of pain, but they affect different parts of the brain and how the sensation is communicated from neuron to neuron. This translates into cannabinoids having, for example, a stronger effect on inflammation-based chronic pain. Meanwhile, opioids are particularly good at relieving acute pain, which is why they are used in surgery. The problem is that opioids can quickly lead to a deadly addiction.

A specific cannabinoid, cannabidiol, has been seen to reduce heroin cravings in animals more than a week after abstinence, and seems to restore some of the neurobiological damage induced by opioid use. A small pilot human investigation led by Hurd mirrored these findings in rodents. In the study, cannabidiol particularly helped relieve anxiety related to cravings in heroin users abstaining from use.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is asking researchers to think creatively about new strategies for pain relief. While there has been a growing interest by the scientific community in cannabinoids since the legalization of medical marijuana, but that has not translated into much greater knowledge about how it could be used therapeutically, despite at least a million people having prescriptions.

“We have to be open to marijuana because there are components of the plant that seem to have therapeutic properties, but without empirical-based research or clinical trials, we’re letting anecdotes guide how people vote and policies that are going to be made,” Hurd says. “It’s one of the first times in our history that we’re making laypeople and politicians decide whether things are medicinal or not. If we want to say something is medical marijuana, we have to prove that it is medicinal.”

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I’ve been on Fentanyl patch & other assorted Opiods for 15 yrs now because of failed back surgery, nerve root is being crushed by the scar tissue.. Nothing the doctors can do Except prescribe meds to lessen the pain. Now Ontario has Removed coverage for Opiod Pain Meds over a certain amount & I’m just 1 of the many ppl affected by this callous act of government! I cannot afford to pay for my meds out of pocket almost $1000.00 mo, I was made “dependant” on Opiods by doctors & now I’m told not only to reduce my dependence but that there are No Clinics avail for me to “detox” in? . Just Quit Cold Turkey? WTF?? Using Cannabis as a medicine has done wonders for me but not Enough to stop my use of Opiods for pain, only reduce them. However I Refuse to buy the Irradiated Poison Sprayed Crap that is available at a Huge (was gonna say High cost Lol) cost which isn’t covered by ont provincial drug plan, just so trudeau & his cronies can make a Massive Fortune selling Infected Poison to Medical Patients. It’s a Plant for f sakes! Get over it! Leagalize, decriminalize whatever, it’s all B.S.! When a Plant that has been Demonized & Criminalized by Gov for Decades is now being Sold to the public by the very same ppl who have criminalized it, Obviously there is a Problem ppl! Wake-up & stop allowing our Rights to be taken from us! Overgrow the Gov. (write to Dana Larsen @overgrowcanada) by planting this Wonderful Lifesaving Herb Everywhere & take back Our Rights to use Plants any way we see fit! We are Not Children & Don’t need to be told what is & isn’t good for us. The Gov Makes Billions off the Sales of Tobacco & Alcohol Both Proven to Cause Death & destruction of Entire Generations of families do they simply make cigarettes illegal? Alcohol? No Because it Makes the Members of Gov Rich! But they have Wasted so much TAXPAYOR $ to Fight against Dispensaries when that is how the Majority of ppl Want to Buy their Cannabis and will buy like that despite what trudeau & his Liberalies try to do.. We trust our own eyes & sense of smell to determine if it’s ok to use, we don’t get that option with L.P.s! We only have 1 Life & We Should be able to do What We Want with it, within reason, & GROWING A PLANT to help relieve your Pain, Depression, Insomnia, PTSD, Anxiety Etc or even to just make yourself healthier without the numerous problems associated with side effects of Opiods Shouldn’t be a Criminal Act if you Don’t purchase it from the “Legal” source. I will buy my Cannabis from wherever I choose, thru a street dealer who will come right to my door, from a Dispensary where I can also See the product before I buy, from the Criminal Underworld, from the elderly… Read more »

Yousef Alba

Back in April 2016, I was walking doen the street at approximately 12:30 in the afternoon. I was approached by an unknown male individual, who had demanded my jewelry and cash. Not knowing he was armed with a pistol, I put my hands up and invited him to come to try and take it. This may be in part, due to my 17 years of kickboxing training and competing. Had I known he was armed, I would have given him everything. To make a long story shot, I was shot four times. I was unable to walk for 3 months, but I’m back to walking and trying to continue my life after this horrifically tragic nightmare that took place. I was put on oxycontin for roughly 5 months, the reduced down to hydromorphones, and then percocets. This was my Dr’s orders to wein me down. Since being released from the Hospital, I was also given a medical marijuana license, prescribing me to intake 3 grams per day. I choose to vaporize, and smoke it dry also. Now at it has been 4 or 5 months opiate free, but I still don’t feel well at all. It’s been a rough ten months of recovery for me. The MMJ helps as I include both CBD and THC in my medicating regiment; as I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD from the incident. Also I am now suffering from substantial nerve damage. One of the bullets partly severed my femoral artery, causing heavy blood loss. There are still many sharp fragments in my body that Dr’s were not able to remove. I have not had one decent pain-free day in 10 momths now. I feel a lot of the pain now that I am off the opiates. I don’t know if the MJ helps with withdrawals, but I don’t feel well at all 🙁

Jean Price

Until it’s legalized in the whole country or at least okayed medicinally, this means little! Maybe it’s a step to doing that, but I would hate the legalization of marijuana to just be another nail in the coffin of having the option of opioids denied! ALL possible pain lessening modalities are imortsnt because people are all so different in their make up and diseases also vary with many factors!


I am resistant to conversations like this turning into an “either/or” discussion. I want to maintain access to the treatment that is working for me (a mild opiate). MMJ may not be a “one-size-fits-all” treatment. We may not find that out until people are PUSHED onto MMJ. It should be an option, but it cannot be “Use MMJ or suffer.”


Just got totally off morphine after 16 years of opioids for chronic nerve pain. Cannabis is my only pain medication now. Still some physical effects of the change, but I’m hopeful I can eventually use cannabis to get off the rest of the meds I’m on.

Thank you for catching that. The link has been updated.


Please provide the correct link. This link, “recently published her position in Trends in Neurosciences.”, is to an article by two other writers named Eldridge and Richmond who are writing about Contextual Decision-Making. Kindly find Professor Hurd’s article and publish the correct link to it, so that readers can see her article.


Mark Ibsen

I have had success in abandoned pain patients
Using cannabis to help them wean off opiates.

80% success.

Ben Aiken

That’s GREAT. Help for those addicted to opioids. The CDC has the answer to medicinal opioid addiction. Stop the doctors ability to prescribe opioid medication with threat of license revocation. I endorse ANY research and will contribute to any expedited research for help with chronic pain. Marijuana has great potential. At least from what I have read. Problem is, it is illegal in over half the states and federally. kinda screwed up. Do what you gotta do. The CDC does not offer advice, referrals, medication, or research for the MILLIONS that live in severe chronic pain. .How can any person in chronic pain be told “x” amount of medication is “enough” for ALL chronic pain patients without even examining the patient? These guys must be really sharp. Either that or they don’t give a. Sorry to get off the subject. What is it going to take to amend the “guideline” from the CDC. Class action possible? Hate to single out the physicians that are being blackmailed with action. ?