Is Pot a Safer Alternative to Painkillers?
The Canadian behind new research on the painkilling properties of pot tells The Fix that marijuana is an "exit drug."
Marijuana may be an effective treatment for chronic pain and a safer alternative than pharmaceutical painkillers, according to new research from the Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria. Researcher Phillippe Lucas reviewed numerous studies carried out from 1975 onwards, in which patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain were treated with a combination of cannabis and opiates. He writes in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, “Research suggests that when used in conjunction with opiates, cannabinoids can lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain, which may in turn result in a reduction in the use of opiates (and associated side effects) by patients in a clinical setting.” Lucas says this would not only have a positive impact on pain levels and quality of life for paitients, but also help reduce the soaring painkiller addiction rates in both the US and Canada. He even believes marijuana could help treat other addictions to stimulants and alcohol, and could therefore help reduce alcohol-related problems like drunk driving and domestic violence.
“So what we’re really talking about in a nutshell," Lucas tells The Fix, "is cannabis as an exit drug to addiction, rather than a gateway drug as it is often suggested it might be. Overall, the more doctors know about the medical use of cannabis, the better potential health outcomes for the patients.”
Of course, other studies have shown that marijuana has its own negative side effects—one just out says pot can cause long-term anxiety in people who smoke it as teenagers, for example. But Lucas says society needs to fully evaluate its prejudices towards marijuana: “As a society, we’re going up against 70 years of reinforcement that this substance is altogether negative... That prevents us from looking at this substance and all its potential benefits," he argues. “I think the current harms of prohibition, particularly cannabis prohibition, far outweigh any potential harm from the individuals and society that legalizing cannabis may have. If we were to discover cannabis in this day and age in a jungle in South America, I think we would consider it almost as a miracle drug.”