For many, it may seem counter-intuitive to treat addiction with cannabis. One of the biggest reasons for this is because many see cannabis as a “drug”, and think it is merely replacing one substance with another.
Yet, we can legitimately ask, “So what?” After all, studies have shown that cannabis is far safer than painkillers, alcohol, amphetamines and all sorts of other drugs, whether they are prescribed or not. In fact, it is not at all unusual to wean people off opioids and alcohol by using other opioids and benzodiazepines in order to prevent potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.
Of course, this form of treatment often means that alcohol and opioid addicts end up being addicted to other drugs – this time ones that are prescribed. The risk of relapse is quite high, especially as dosages taper off. Cannabis treatment seems so far to be a much safer alternative to many current treatments involving substitutes such as methadone. For one, there is no risk of fatal overdose, and the safety margins are a lot higher with cannabis than with traditional substitutes.
- Cannabis has the potential to stave off any pain opioids are treating.
- Appetite increase
- Better sleep
- Relaxes “restless legs”
- Euphoric effects boost mood
- Can help stave off boredom, anxiety, depression and cravings
- Helps relax the muscles
- Will not on its own help with other things that can lead to addiction – e.g. a bad environment at home or negative peer groups
- Patient needs extensive follow-up in order to prevent the chances of relapse
- May not be effective for extreme long-term opioid users, or long-term users may need powerful cannabis concentrates – which may prove uncomfortable for some
- Some opioids and cannabis may produce harmful effects when mixed
- Many addiction treatment programmes may find this form of treatment “problematic” – programmes that the addict may rely upon for support