Marijuana and The Gateway Drug Myth

Marijuana and The Gateway Drug Myth — Research Finds Cannabis Can Be an Essential Component in Fixing the Opioid Crisis

You’ve probably been told at some point in your life that marijuana is a gateway drug. For years, failing drug education programs have tried to jam this myth down children’s throats. For those not acquainted, the lie goes something like this…

Step 1) You start with marijuana to get your rocks off

Step 2) You will become desensitized and weed will no longer do it for you

Step 3) You will then turn to harder drugs to satisfy your deep primordial craving for self-destruction.

Step 4) These harder drugs will then not only destroy your life but lead to some awkward confrontations with your parents.

Not only is this an oversimplified, inaccurate understanding of human behavior, but the exact opposite is also proving to be true. It turns out, cannabis might actually be instrumental in getting addicts off of harder drugs.

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Marijuana and the Opioid Crisis

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University recently published a study in the American Journal of Addictions that has the potential to change the way in which opioid addiction is treated.

When paired with methadone, cannabis was able to lessen the effects of withdrawal experienced by patients in recovery from opioid addiction. Withdrawal symptoms suffered by opioid addicts can be devastating. These can range from diarrhea, and excess sweating, to vomiting, convulsions and severe muscle cramps. The process is unpleasant, to say the least, and anything that can be done to ease the suffering of recovering addicts should be taken into consideration.

The Study’s authors viewed cannabis as having an integral roll in the process of treating opioid addiction. They stated that the plant has unrivaled potential as a coping mechanism and a way to lessen suffering during this tumultuous process.

“These results suggested a potential role for cannabis in the reduction of withdrawal severity during methadone induction.”
More research is needed to maximize the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment for withdrawal. However, the plant is currently listed as a schedule 1 drug, meaning that it is federally illegal and scientific research into the matter is hamstrung. Recently, there has been some progress towards getting this decision reversed, but legalization cannot come soon enough for those afflicted with adiction.

While new additional new research might not be in large supply in the United States, older studies confirm these findings. One 2005 scientific investigation found marijuana to be more effective than cocaine, alcohol or nicotine at easing withdrawal symptoms. The study’s authors had this to say,

“strong evidence for an ameliorative effect of cannabinoids on opiate withdrawal symptoms,”
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Hope Amid the Opioid Crisis

New York Politician hold a bag of weed
New York has Recognized the effectiveness in cannabis as an alternative to opioids (image via Mic)

Politicians can be slow in recognizing and heeding scientific facts. However, crisis often prompts radical measures to be undertaken. A number of states have begun to legalize medical cannabis in the face of the opioid crisis.

New York and New Jersey, in particular, were prompted to look to cannabis as a viable, less addictive alternative for pain management. New York’s State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, was candid about the established science on marijuana’s place in ending the opioid crisis.

“Medical marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for pain that may also reduce the chance of opioid dependence. Adding opioid replacement as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana offers providers another treatment option, which is a critical step in combating the deadly opioid epidemic affecting people across the state”
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Portraying cannabis as a gateway drug was one of the most irresponsible and destructive lies of America’s failed drug education programs. With the scientific community and states ravaged by the opioid crisis coming out in support of cannabis as a part of the solution, it seems America’s perception of marijuana is coming full circle.

However, further research is required into the matter. It is integral for the future of the opioid crisis to determine which strains, extracts, and methods of intake are the most effective. With the DEA and the Trump administration not budging on cannabis’ schedule 1 status, it seems America might be missing a critical component to the solution.

By: Stefan Hosko
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