When it comes to discussing Cannabis and Opioids there seems to be two major themes, Controversy and Catastrophe (respectively).
“Cannabis plants produce a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, which produce mental and physical effects when consumed.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is more toxic than most other opioids. Opioids are a class of drug or medication which includes heroin, morphine, fentanyl, methadone and codeine. They are most often prescribed for pain relief. Fentanyl is around 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine, which makes the risk of accidental overdose higher. Fentanyl has medical uses and can be prescribed by a physician to help control severe pain, but in recent years it is also being produced in illegal labs and sold on the streets, often mixed with other drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, and others). ( (Website))
All opioids are alarmingly over-prescribed in Canada.
Severe and chronic pain is one of the main reasons people asked to be prescribed opioids in Canada.
Last year alone over 600 people died from overdoses, and even worse? between January and April of 2017, over 300 died. The numbers are accelerating from 0-60 without any hope of slowing down in the immediate future.
On the other hand, cannabis has proven itself as a healthy, non-damaging pain reliever. There are zero cannabis-related deaths recorded from 2016 to 2017, and prior to that there is nothing written linking cannabis as a direct result of death. According to some patients using prescribed cannabis, they believe it has actually improved their mental health over time. Cannabis has been touted as beneficial in alleviating pain related to neuropathic (peripheral, central and mixed) pain:
- Central neuropathic pain is found in spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and some strokes.
- After a peripheral nerve damage, aberrant regeneration may occur. Neurons become unusually sensitive and develop spontaneously pathological activity, abnormal excitability, and heightened sensitivity to chemical, thermal and mechanical stimuli. This phenomenon is called “peripheral sensitization”.
There are a few obstacles we have to overcome before cannabis becomes the norm:
1. Pharmaceutical companies – the top three pain medicines are OxyContin, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl. With almost 2 billion in sales annually it is no surprise that these companies would adamantly oppose the growth of the legal marijuana business.
2. Government – The Government of Canada remains committed to keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the pockets of organized crime – the best way to do this is to invest more funding and manpower into the final research needed for legalization. Although, Health Canada will support marijuana public education programming and surveillance activities in advance of the Government’s plan to legalize cannabis, we do need to speak up and get heard as Canadian citizens seeking a healthy alternative to chemical prescriptions.
3. Health Care providers – More health care providers have to step out of the box and advocate for medical cannabis based on their personal knowledge, and feedback from patients. People suffering from pain are on the receiving end of drugs that cause more harm in the long run. Cannabis has proven itself time and time again as a safe and healthy alternative.
Is there any reason why we are not arriving at a decision that benefits Canadian patients right now?