Addiction Treatment

Using one substance to replace another is not an uncommon practice for the treatment of many types of drug addiction. Opiate addicts are often given opioid-based replacements, whereas for alcoholics, slowly weening off of alcohol (cold turkey is dangerous in such instances) combined with benzodiazepines is often recommended. This is to both prevent the risk of relapse and, in the case of physical addiction, the more extreme side-effects of sudden withdrawal and even death.

The case for using cannabis as an “exit drug” is an intriguing one. As cannabinoids can “talk” to and influence the behavior of other receptors in the body, it can theoretically reduce or replace the use of many drugs, whether licit or illicit. Another point for the use of cannabis for drug addiction is that, even if it is a crutch, it is a far safer crutch than opiates/opioids, alcohol, amphetamines, benzodiazepines and barbiturates.

Much depends on the type or class of drug one is using cannabis to help replace. As sudden alcohol withdrawal can cause death, cannabis can possibly be used either to help reduce alcohol intake slowly and/or used towards the end of treatment, when it is time to start giving up the benzodiazepines often used to help alcohol withdrawal. For opioid and opiate addiction, tapering opioid and opiate use slowly and, eventually, completely with cannabis is possible. Theoretically, tapering combined with high doses of THC (which are also tapered down over time) may also help. Cannabidiol (CBD) may help ease anxiety and beat cravings. Cannabis may help ease any nausea and vomiting, and may help one eat a proper meal and deal with any insomnia.

There is less evidence for the use of cannabis to stop or reduce cocaine and amphetamine use, but there is some (sometimes conflicting) evidence. Whilst ADHD patients may find cannabinoids more tolerable than their stimulant-based prescription drugs, this may differ for an amphetamine addict who does not have ADHD.

There is no real, definitive evidence that cannabis is a “gateway drug”. There is perhaps one way in which cannabis could be a gateway drug, and that is because it is currently illegal, and therefore is traded along with other illicit substances, where introduction to these substances becomes more likely. Also, if we are to be logically consistent, then it is worth considering, “To what extent are alcohol and tobacco gateway drugs?” Indeed, there are some people who argue that, if the concept of “gateway drugs” is real, then alcohol and tobacco are prime candidates, well beyond cannabis. Again, this could be true theoretically speaking. After all, cannabis does not affect decision-making ability in the same way alcohol does. However, this is more conjecture than empirically true, but there is a logic to this idea.

There may also be a difference between those who are addicted to certain drugs for recreational reasons, and those who use medically-prescribed drugs in a more controlled manner. A different psychology and approach may be needed to treat these two different groups.

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For those suffering from constant, chronic pain, some commonly-prescribed medications include drugs in the opioid- and benzodiazepine- classes. Cannabinoids could prove to be a much safer alternative. Get your MMJ recommendation today!





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