The opioid use in America is now being referred to as an “epidemic.” That is why studies are currently taking place to make a shift toward weed over opioids. When it comes to pain, American citizens have a lot of it. Whether chronic or acute, pain and the use of painkillers is part of everyday life for many. Anecdotally, we all know that marijuana can help relieve chronic pain and evidence from studies has suggested the same. But the focus has been on chronic pain leaving acute pain completely out of the picture. A doctor in Connecticut is changing that by conducting a study for marijuana use for acute pain.
Could marijuana legalization help alleviate America’s opioid addiction epidemic?
According to one doctor, James Feeney, a surgeon from Connecticut, patients are choosing marijuana over opioids. “Listen, don’t give me any of that oxycodone garbage…I’m just going to smoke weed,” he told The Atlantic his patients would say. Having some of his patients refuse prescriptions for oxycodone for various pain-related issues, Feeney realized studies were lacking with marijuana use for acute pain.
His patients have lead him to a self-funded study that Feeney is conducting at the Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut. There hasn’t before been a study that differentiates marijuana use for chronic pain vs. acute pain. His focus is on the use of marijuana to treat acute pain. His study, which just began, consists of 60 patients with rib injuries. Half of the participants will use marijuana to alleviate the pain associated with rib injuries, while the other half will use an opioid. Rib injuries were selected as the source of acute pain because as far as acute pain goes, rib injuries can have a pretty predictable timeline of 6 weeks for heal time.
Because of marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, studies remain difficult to conduct. This one was designed to get around the classification hurdle. Participants here will choose opioids or marijuana for the duration of the study to control pain. Participants will have a doctor certify their need for marijuana and will purchase their prescription from a dispensary or pharmacy themselves. Feeney nor Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center will not be providing marijuana directly to participants. The strains allowed for the study have been predetermined by Feeney.
In 2015, opioid overdoses killed more than 30,000 people.
Marijuana use for pain management is becoming increasingly more attractive to people because it doesn’t have the same side effects that opioids can have. Some might even argue that an addiction to marijuana to much safer than an addiction to opioids which includes heroin and morphine as well as oxycodone. Opioids have been commonly used to treat pain for a long time and marijuana has the potential to be a game changer. Feeney said “the big focus from my standpoint is that this is an attempt to end the opioid epidemic.” Lets all hope this is true!