Is Marijuana a Solution to the Opioid Epidemic?

The gravity of the opioid epidemic facing the nation today is a public health concern that most people are aware of and are looking to take action against. In our home state of South Carolina alone, DAODAS found that 1 in 4 people who are prescribed opioids struggle with addiction and over 5 million painkiller prescriptions are being filled every year. The means by which the problem is being handled are concerning especially to those working in the world of recovery and prevention for substance use disorders. The benefits of medical marijuana are still in dispute among health professionals, but in regards to opioid use disorders, many people are looking to marijuana as a tool in treatment.

While the availability of medical marijuana at a state level might be associated with decreased rates of opioid overdose in that population, it does not necessarily mean that marijuana helps decrease opioid use for any given individual. It is important to note that marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and does not possess any currently accepted medical properties.

According to an opioid use disorder study conducted by The Recovery Research Institute, cannabis users had 3.5 times greater odds of any additional opioid use and 2.6 times greater odds of new-onset opioid use three years later. This relationship continued to occur throughout the study, even after adjustments were made to address the potential factors that could explain such a trend. The bottom line according to their results shows that cannabis use is prospectively related to using opioids, as well as to the likelihood of developing opioid use disorder for the first time. The habit-forming patterns present in an opioid use disorder require a more intensive treatment plan than the short-term pain-relieving effects that marijuana may provide.

In response to the increasing opioid misuse in our communities, LRADAC offers Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) as an accompaniment to our treatment services.  LRADAC embraces a behavioral health treatment model, where all clients engage in group and/or individual therapy, with intensity varying based upon an individual’s assessment.  Individuals struggling with opioid misuse may come in for an assessment during regular walk-in times.  Those who meet the admission criteria will be screened for possible admission to the MAT Program.

For more information about treatment services for opioid misuse visit https://lradac.orgtreatment-for-adults/ or call (803) 726-9300.

LRADAC is the designated alcohol abuse and drug abuse authority for Lexington and Richland Counties of South Carolina. The public, not-for-profit agency offers a wide array of prevention, intervention and treatment programs in locations convenient to residents of both counties. The agency has a budget of approximately $10 million and serves more than 5,000 clients per year.