Marijuana May Help Treat Opioid, Alcohol Addictions

Katie Frates

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Medical marijuana may be beneficial in aiding addiction treatment for alcohol abuse and opioid dependency, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) studied the relationship between marijuana use and mental health and tested its interaction with different illnesses. The findings, published in Clinical Psychology Review, suggest marijuana is a helpful tool for those suffering addictions to more harmful substances, like prescription painkillers. The team found the substance can have a promising effect on certain health conditions, but can adversely affect others, reports The Science Explorer.

The research also showed that marijuana could aid those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.

“Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication,” Zach Walsh, lead researcher and associate professor of psychology at UBC, said in a statement. “In reviewing the limited evidence on medical cannabis, it appears that patients and others who have advocated for cannabis as a tool for harm reduction and mental health have some valid points.”

While no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the research, it adds to a small pool of evidence helping psychologists determine whether marijuana can be used in patient treatment. The researchers say marijuana holds promise in aiding those with depression, social anxiety and PTSD. They warn, however, that the substance can have a detrimental affect on those suffering from psychosis and bipolar disorder.

The psychologists note that research remains limited due to the federal government’s designation of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.

The findings come as opioid use surpasses tobacco use in America. Nationally, 37.8 percent of adult Americans are using some kind of painkiller, while 31.1 percent of adults in the U.S. use tobacco products.

Many people who overdose on substances like heroin began with a dependence on prescription painkillers, but switched after building high tolerances that made them too expensive. Activists for opioid addiction treatment are highly critical of the federal government for not doing more to curb the harms of prescription painkillers.

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