Opioid Addiction Being Treated With Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts

Hundreds of people in Massachusetts who are addicted to opioids are being treated with medical marijuana, according to the Boston Herald.

“We have a statewide epidemic of opioid deaths,” said Dr. Gary Witman of Canna Care Docs, a network of facilities that qualifies patients into medical marijuana programs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Delaware and the District of Columbia. “As soon as we can get people off opioids to a nonaddicting substance — and medicinal marijuana is nonaddicting — I think it would dramatically impact the amount of opioid deaths.”

Witman, who works in a Massachusetts Canna Care clinic, has treated about 80 patients who were addicted to opioids, anti-anxiety medication or muscle relaxers with cannabis through a one-month tapering program. More than three-quarters of patients stopped taking the harder drugs, he told the newspaper.

Witman said cannabis can be a safer alternative for managing the symptoms patients had been using opioids to treat, such as chronic pain or anxiety.

Another Massachusetts physician, Dr. Harold Altvater, said he has also successfully used medical marijuana as a substitute for other medications. “You are basically taking something that can be very harmful for an individual, and substituting it with another chemical, just like you would any other drug, that has a wider safety margin,” he said. “So if the goal is to decrease the body count … the goal would be to get them on to a chemical that was safer.”

Some doctors say cannabis substitution therapy needs extensive followup. “It might be an exit drug for some, or an entry drug for others,” said Dr. Anil Kumar. “If you don’t have a way of monitoring this patient who is saying ‘give me marijuana and I will stop taking narcotics,’ they may do both.”


53 Responses

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    December 7, 2017 at 6:35 PM

    There are many patients who take opiates for severe pain and do so responsibly. However many would like to get off these drugs and use cannibis as a way to go through withdrawal and in states where legal use medical marijuana to deal with their severe pain and anxiety with depression. Cannabis is safer and certain strains will not interfere with daily activities like work etc… I live in a backward state where we can’t use Cannabis legally. I that’s a shame but that’s just life. Being a schedule I drug by the dea makes more quality studies as to the efficacy of Cannabis much more difficult. Interestingly Marinol which is synthetic thc is a scheduled 3 medication. So medical science sees the value of thc and for that matter cbd as well. Pharmaceutical companies can make more money of course by making these and other cannabinoids prescription only . Really we would be be better served with medical marijuana which has all the cannabinoids in varying amounts. Patients would be able to have a wider variety of strains like Canatonic a low thc high cbd content to Blue Dream which has a higher thc and lower cbd content . Of course there are many other strains that are midrange with almost 1:1 thc cbd ratios.

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    Louie south BK

    September 29, 2017 at 6:22 PM

    Many people with serious habits will still need something like bupreborphine to detox. Don’t assume marijauna is enough and send them into a possible relapse. The weed helps with the pains and helps to keep you comfy and not panicking about scoring drugs. For me, Ibogaine will always be the best cure I’ve had but until that is legal here, suboxone and medical marijuana keep me alive and off the streets. I used to be homeless now I have had a girl, a dog and an apartment for six years, because I had access to bupeprenorphine and weed. Iwas able to at least buy expensive marijuana off the street even though I couldn’t afford as much as I really needed for effective pain control it still saved my life

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    Karen Jones

    April 5, 2017 at 9:51 PM

    My son has an addiction to opiates. Started with pills then on to Heroin. He also has ADD and anxiety. He was on Vivatrol for over a year and currently takes the pill form…naltrexone. (non narcotic opiate blocker) for his addiction. That works great for opiate addiction! However he still has anxiety. He has taken a variety of prescription meds that really don’t work. He smokes weed and has found the combination of Naltrexone and weed keep him clean, functional and reduce his anxiety. He has been in multiple Rehabs and tried EVERYTHING to deal with his addiction. (He doesn’t drink or do other drugs now). Problem is…the court system orders tmnt for addiction and all Rehabs are abstinenced based. I desperately wish he could get medical marijuana!!! Hopefully Maryland will allow him a prescription!!!

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    April 3, 2017 at 10:23 AM

    I think the cannabis oil would make the most sense, I am going to try it with my granddaughter who is trying to get clean from opioid addiction. I have seen & lived with watching opioid destroy 3 generations! Just heart wrenching! Hopefully it helps better that other options i’very seen.

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    January 18, 2017 at 12:02 AM

    I am glad you got off those med’s that took over your life, but quitting benzo’s cold turkey is not something I would tell anyone to do. With pain pills you might feel like your dying but with the xanax you can die from stopping. I am happy this article is even written though. Most people would rather just smoke a bit, hit a vape pen, or eat a gummy bear to help them deal with some issues that those other medicines are doing but at a terrible trade off, or use the marijuana to step off pain/anxiety meds. I always thought it would be a perfect tool for that. I also hear about these people that are checking into hospitals with a new marijuana induced illness. I don’t doubt it exists just like drinking too much water can kill you, but I would like to see exactly what they were taking. Is it that new form of Marijuana “dabs” or “wax”? Is it some super strain that is out of line with the average user. I knew once these concentrates hit the market an illness would pop up.

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