Marijuana is not helping the opioid epidemic. Period. Actually, we don’t necessarily have an opioid crisis, we have a poly-substance problem. The toehold of recreational marijuana is convincing the public, as well as medical providers, that we need to use marijuana as medicine or as an opioid substitute. Although there may be legitimate uses for cannabis-based medications in specific disease states, the use in pain has simply not been proven. The current evidence for the use of marijuana for pain, particularly with dispensary cannabis, is completely void.
Marijuana has been around for thousands of years and has been felt to have medicinal qualities, treating ailments such as gout and rheumatism, among other ailments. It has been found in Egyptian and Peruvian mummies and has been documented in ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia. Keep in mind, however, that the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of these ancient plants was 2%-3%. Many products of today bear little resemblance to the old plant: “God’s plant” and potencies of THC are at record levels and readily available in those states with medical and recreational marijuana.
Pain, the “fifth vital sign,” was promulgated throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Pain clinics sprung up across the country and people began to die in increasing numbers from opioid overdoses. Pill mills became commonplace, particularly in Florida. Pharmaceutical companies were developing and marketing hard to medical providers, that we must use opioids to more effectively treat people who were suffering in pain. Big Pharma was making millions of dollars as more people were dying.
Once the opioid epidemic was well underway, there was public outcry, and Big Pharma is now in the midst of multiple lawsuits. Somewhere along this road, beginning with California in 1996, the idea of using marijuana instead of opioids for pain control took hold. Substitute opioids