According to the CDC, 121 people die in the United States everyday from an opioid overdose. Thus, it should not be surprising that the United States contains less than 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes around 80% of the world’s opioid supply (Foreman, 2015).
As reported by researchers Weise and Wilson-Poe (2018), more than 33,000 people lost their lives to an accidental opioid overdose in 2015. They state that opioids are often initially prescribed for treating pain. Two major contributions to these accidental deaths include dose escalation and physical dependence.
Luckily, chronic pain of at least 6 months duration has recently been approved in Connecticut as a qualifying condition to be treated by medical marijuana, and no cannabis deaths have been reported. This makes cannabis an attractive alternative for patients suffering from this condition.
Earlier in 2020, researcher Caldera outlined a case report of a woman suffering from a traumatic brain injury who developed chronic pain and opioid dependence. To begin, she reported a pain level of 8/10 on the visual analogue scale (VAS), and controlled this pain with narcotic pain medication for over 10 years. Initially, this consisted of 30 mg of morphine twice per day. This was then increased to 45 mg of MS Contin twice per day as her long acting medication and 30 mg of morphine immediate release twice per day. This totaled to 150 morphine milligram equivalents per day.
These medications decreased her pain to 4/10 on VAS, but she expressed concerns of becoming addicted to narcotic pain medication, placing into action a weaning protocol. Her long acting MS Contin was decreased by 15 mg per week until she was only taking her morphine immediate release. She saw an increase in pain levels and withdrawal symptoms, but she was weaned off in one month. Following this, her immediate release morphine was decreased from 60 mg daily to 30 mg daily.
Then, she was started on her medical cannabis product. This product was called Harlequin 500 mg, and it had a 2:1 cannabidiol to tetrahydrocannabinol ratio (26.3% CBD and 17% THC) in vape form. This was divided into 2.5 mg doses per inhalation. With two vape inhalations per day, her pain decreased from 8/10 to 2/10 on VAS.
Following this, she was able to completely wean off of her opioid medications and she reported no side effects from medical cannabis. At her six month follow up, she continued to have excellent relief!
Caldera, Franklin E. “Medical Cannibus as an Alternative for Opioids for Chronic Pain: A Case Report.” SAGE Open Medical Case Reports, SAGE Publications, 12 Feb. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7016302/.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding the Epidemic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html.
Foreman, Judy. A Nation in Pain: Healing Our Biggest Health Problem. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Wiese B, Wilson-Poe AR. “Emerging evidence for cannabis’ role in opioid use disorder” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 3:1, 179–189, 2018, DOI: 10.1089/can.2018.0022.