Marijuana As A Opiate Alternative?

By: Marc McMahon

*First of all, I would just like to say that I am reporting what I have found on this topic and sharing my thoughts with you from a neutral point of view. I am not pro-legalize marijuana or against. If anything, I come to you as a man in recovery a little skeptical about the claims that I read which caused me to investigate this further. With that being said, let’s begin.

I don’t know about you all, but when I first saw the words “States that legalized Medical Marijuana had 25% fewer opioid-related deaths!” by the company Weedsmap. I chuckled to myself and said now that’s a brilliant marketing strategy. Then reminded myself a drug, is a drug, is a drug like I have had pounded into my brain through my many years at and in recovery and went about my day.

I have to admit though that phrase has been kicking around in the back of my head for three days now. So tonight I thought I might do a little research of my own. Holy smokes seems appropriate right about now because there is just from my searching over some 170 articles out there on the topic and a few bonafide studies that have been conducted that blew me right out of the water here.


Let’s start with challenging my current recovery beliefs with this new information and see if by doing so it does not cause you to do the same. So what if a drug, is a drug, is a drug, but one of those drugs is showing amazing medical benefits. And is lowering the deaths of those addicted to opiates by some 25% just to scratch the surface. Has been legalized in several states, and has shown to not increase drug use any, but some may say through these findings helps to reduce it. Would that drug then become an acceptable form of Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT)?

Would we be able to sit in our chosen recovery support meetings and gladly honor someone celebrating their clean time if they are smoking medical marijuana as an ORT? Good question huh? At first, I was immediately on the defensive as my years of being drilled in the art of recovery came to the forefront of my mind to defend their hard-earned beliefs. But then as the days passed by my mind began to open and I have been allowed to think on the subject objectively and without prejudice.

Let me share with you a few of the facts that I have found regarding the claim I saw on the billboard that day, and let you come up with your own conclusion. First, I found a study that was conducted by professionals from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Medical Center.

Their findings although not earth-shattering, but promising, stated in a nutshell that they believe if medical marijuana were made widely available to treat pain that it is possible to see a drop in the percentage of opioid-related deaths.

For one reason, opiate prescriptions would be widely replaced with medical marijuana in some form. Whether the traditional, or topical, edible or in liquid, And to date, as far as my research has found. There has not been one overdose-related death linked to marijuana in any form.


Secondly, Yuyan Shi authored the findings from a University of San Diego study which found that in states with legalized medical marijuana the number of people being hospitalized for opioid addiction or dependence dropped on average 23%. While the number of opiate-related overdoses treated in those states Hospital Emergency Rooms dropped on average 13%. There is an article to back up all my findings here.

Dr. Esther Choo from the Oregon Health and Science University says, “It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity.” “Could increased liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution?” It seems plausible she was quoted as saying. She closed with “there is still much we need to understand about the mechanisms through which marijuana policy may affect opioid use and harms.”

Any thoughts yet? I have a couple, now that I have found what I read on the billboard to be a little misleading, but there is definitely some truth to their claims. I believe that we are fighting one of the fiercest enemies the United States of America has ever had to contend with in the OpiodeEpedemic. I believe that it is going to take some either unconventional or maybe even unheard of therapy’s added to the ones we are currently using to become victorious in this war.

In 2015 the Center for Disease Control estimates that we lost over 33,000 people to opiate-related deaths. I did the simple math that works out to 90.41 deaths a day! This should not be so, and if by allowing people to use marijuana to relieve pain vs taking opiates works to lower that number even by 1. Then I will gladly honor all of those folks clean time in recovery if that is helping them, Will You?

**I always like to offer both sides to any story I write the best that I can when there is a need and this is one of those times. Although I am all for Marijuana being used if it does improve quality of life as described above. Not just for the heck of it but with that purpose in mind I approve for all that its worth. But the Federal Government may not see it that way despite the liberal states including my own Oregon & their Marijuana Laws. If you find yourself needing to know more about the laws and drug and alcohol treatment here is an informative article on that as well as alcohol treatment check it out so you know the rules. Stay blessed you all I love you!


About the Author: Marc is a 48-year-old Author, Speaker, and Soldier in a war to loosen the grasp that Substance Abuse has on our society. He is a Father, Son, and friend to all those seeking refuge from this incorrigible disease. Marc resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where he enjoys, writing, hiking, and kicking the disease of addiction in the teeth, every chance he gets. As Marc always likes to say, “be blessed, my friends!”

4 thoughts on “Marijuana As A Opiate Alternative?

  1. Great points presented here. I, too, have had to grapple with using marijuana as a legitimate medication. I come from a background where abstinence is king but now I treat the opiate addicted population with medication assistance.
    Just like years ago, when psychotropic medications like anti depressants and anti anxiety medications were shunned in 12 step groups, they are now more widely accepted. I believe medication assisted treatment will become more widely accepted as well because we’re battling in a drug war that does not seem to be getting anywhere. The same goes with legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
    Our ideas have to change about how we treat people as a whole. Obviously we want to have compassion towards others. We also want people to be “clean/sober” and accepted in treatment setting. If they can reduce their harm and reduce their chance of death by using a schedule one drug then let them do it. Obviously, we need more time and studies but eventually I believe marijuana will become a schedule two and legal in the United States for medical use. Remember, it does not have to be smoked to be ingested and effective so the health risks can be reduced significantly.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My son was addicted to heroin for 16 years. I had finally given up hope that he would survive his addiction when he had three overdoses in three months. Fortunately he was arrested (again) but this time when he got out of jail on probabion they allowed him to enroll in a methadone clinic. He also got a marijuana medical liscense to use that drug to help his extreme anxiety. Eventually he traded methadone for suboxanne. He has now been “clean and sober” for three years, living a healthy, productive life, happy and hopeful about the future for the first time in his adult life.

    Abstinance has been king for too long. It does not work for everyone. It does not work for most, or we wouldn’t have this crisis. I feel very bitter about the backward approach to addiction that has been going on in the country for so many years. I mourn the fact that my son could have been saved long, long ago if we had treatment programs that truly tried to help him by whatever means possible, using science along with faith, and stopped trying to make him white-knuckle his recovery with abstinance.

    I spent 40k or more on all the rehabs I got him into only to have them kick him out when he relapsed, rather than maybe reassessing their own treatment philosophy and looking for other ways to help him. And all the so-called sober living homes he lived in that did the same thing. Every so-called “failure” of my son to resist his cravings made his addiction only worse, because he had “failed” once again, and made to feel that he wasn’t strong enough, good enough, worthy enough to find healing. He didn’t deserve to be treated that way, to be thrown out because he hadn’t been healed yet, or healed the way they wanted him to be healed, by willl-power only, not with medical treatment..

    Someday we will look at addiction treatment in this era like we look at mental health treatment in Bedlam. I am glad that you and the other commenter are waking up to the fact that abstinance only is NOT treatment. it’s like telling a diabetic to white-knuckle his affliction without drugs that help to control his disease. It’s barbaric. It’s heartless.

    Thanks for letting me vent here.

    Liked by 1 person

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