Vicodin, an opiod, is the leading prescription drug in the United States. Photo: Jacq Connors

Vicodin, an opiod, is the leading prescription drug in the United States. Photo: Jacq Connors

One of the principal reasons governments give for prohibiting consumption of cannabis is that it’s a gateway drug whose use will inevitably lead to the harder stuff. This is plainly untrue: in US states which legalised cannabis, there was a 15 percent drop in arrests for possession of coke and heroin and a 25 percent drop in deaths from drug overdose. But better yet, there is now evidence that cannabis use can free people of drug addiction in the case of opiods, which category includes heroin. While at first glance, it seems akin to finding sobriety through Satanism, it’s true.

Opiods are badbadbad. Patients can develop tolerance and require ever-increasing doses: this is drug addiction. There are also side effects that include constipation, feeling drugged, nausea and depression. Deaths from overdose have quadrupled since 1999.

It’s not a new idea

The idea of cannabis instead of opiates is decidedly un-new. In 1969, in Marijuana in Medicine, Tod H Mikuriya MD wrote, ?Because cannabis did not lead to physical dependence, it was found to be superior to the opiates for a number of therapeutic purposes.? He cited the example of Birch in 1889, where opiate drug addiction was treated with cannabis.

For years, methadone has been employed to replace heroin and nicotine patches have been used in place of tobacco. And the difference between a therapeutic and a toxic dose of methadone is small, while cannabis never killed anybody. Cannabis use is, however, not advisable for sufferers of bipolar disorder, as it might worsen manic episodes, or for schizophrenics with whom it can exacerbate psychotic episodes.

The evidence

As was reported by the Boston Herald, Dr. Gary Witman, a physician for Canna Care Docs, a group of clinics that administers medical marijuana, lamented the ?state-wide epidemic of opioid deaths,? adding, ?As soon as we can get people off opioids to a non-addicting substance I think it would dramatically impact the amount of opioid deaths.?

80 people who were dependent upon opiods, muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety medication have been treated by Dr Witman, who gave them marijuana. Over three quarters ceased their use of these harder drugs.

A study by the University of British Columbia that was a comprehensive and systematic review of existing research into medical cannabis and mental health has borne this out. Lead author Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, commented: “people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce the use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication.?

Let’s not forget alcohol

Cannabis could also replace alcohol: a study published in BioMed Central’s Harm Reduction Journal turned up the fact that of the 350 cannabis users polled, 40 percent used it to control their craving for the Devil’s brew.

The real gateway drug

Opiods are the true gateway drug. People have turned to drug addiction, using heroin when their supply of prescription painkillers ended. The US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, was explicit, stating that problems with heroin often began with prescription drugs: ?Something totally legal. Something in every medicine cabinet. Something you can have prescribed to you in good faith by a doctor.?

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