Marijuana as a Gateway Out of Drug Abuse
Marijuana has been labeled for decades as a gateway drug, in the sense that its use leads to the use of a higher level of hazardous drugs such as opiates. However, recent evidence would attest to otherwise. A study published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that the states where marijuana was prescribed for legal medicinal use, had a 25 percent drop in opiate overdose deaths. Marijuana has actually become one of the most highly recommended aids for quitting opiate drugs abuse. Dr. Kyle Kingsley, CEO of Minnesota Medical Solutions, one of the two manufacturers of medical marijuana in Minnesota, believes that medical marijuana could help people who are addicted to prescription painkillers like oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone, as well as heroin. “People think it’s swapping one for the other when it’s swapping a much lesser evil for one that is killing 16,000 people a year. People are not dying from THC or marijuana overdoses." In various states where medical marijuana is legal, marijuana is being prescribed for curing the addiction to heroin and other opiate drugs. Recently, this issue has become the point of focus for many marijuana activists, medical experts, and medical associations. Up until now, research findings have been overwhelmingly in favor of marijuana use for curing dependency on drugs.
Dr. Mark Anderson, an economist at Montana State University whose studies usually focus on issues of public health and marijuana policy, has found through his research that alcohol and marijuana are more of substitutes than complements. His research suggests that if marijuana is more easily acquirable, the general levels of alcohol use might go down. “It certainly doesn’t sound like there’s been an apocalypse and massive catastrophe in Washington and Colorado," Anderson said back in 2014 when these were the only two states where recreational use of marijuana had been legalized, as he stated his optimism that the eased access to marijuana along with the decline in its prices that comes with legalization would serve to curb alcohol use levels.
In 2015, Vice interviewed Amanda Reiman, Ph.D. MSW, who is the author of a 2009 study named “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs" that was published in Harm Reduction Journal and is the manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. Reiman dedicates her efforts to researching the effectiveness of cannabis as a replacement for heavy drugs and alcohol use. Reiman talked in the interview about a survey study she conducted in Berkeley, which included 350 patients. The patients were asked if they were actually substituting, and the question went: “Are you choosing to use cannabis instead of something else?" The results showed that 75% of the patients were using cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs, around 50% said they were using it as a substitute for alcohol, and 20% testified to their use of cannabis to replace serious drugs like heroin and other opiate drugs. When the study was repeated in Canada with 400 more patients, then a third time with 1,000 patients, the results came out exactly the same every time.
Reiman also talked about a study she made on a smaller scale, where she gathered eight people who were regular users of methamphetamine and try to reduce the harm they’re experiencing with the use of the drug. The patients were using medical marijuana to push down their use of methamphetamine, and the focus of the study was knowing what it was exactly about marijuana that helped these people stay within their boundaries in terms of methamphetamine use. When the patients were asked: “How is cannabis helping you not use methamphetamine?" the answers of the eight patients were strikingly similar. They said that one of their core problems with laying off methamphetamine was that they were lacking mindfulness, which meant they acted impulsively whenever they started feeling the desire to use methamphetamine. With cannabis, however, they said that they were slowing down and giving themselves the chance to really think about using methamphetamine, whether they were really happy with where they were and what they were doing to their bodies. They said the slowdown even made them think whether it would be better to get some methamphetamine or just smoke a joint and get some sleep. Other lab experiments attest to these remarks since it was found that people under the influence of THC are much likelier than drunk people to overestimate the level of their impairment and search for precautionary measures to take.
There are people who are a bit skeptic, however, about using marijuana to help with drug abuse problems. When it comes to drug abuse, there are two frameworks for recovery: the abstinence-based framework and the harm-reduction framework. The first entails cutting off substance use completely without anything to help you. The latter, however, is based on the idea that as long as your life is under control, your job is unaffected, your health is in non-alerting shape, then do whatever you feel best. If I am addicted to an opiate drug, and I buy Rick Simpson oil to help me get off it, and the oil is not only keeping me unharmed but better yet is bettering my health status, then most people would agree that the harm reduction achieved is good enough even if I will hypothetically develop a dependency on the oil.
Cannabis can help a person get off such dangerous substances on two main levels. There is the shallow level that we just mention, which is basically that marijuana contains THC which is a psychoactive substance, and instead of substance X which is more dangerous, you would get your high from marijuana which is much safer, not addictive and has no death incidents on its records. Then there is a deeper level. The withdrawal symptoms of drugs such as alcohol, heroin, or any other opiate drugs and prescription painkillers, are usually nausea, trouble with sleep, shakiness, and aching in various body parts. Looking at the effects of Rick Simpson oil, these are just the ailments marijuana oil is proven to remedy. Aside from using Rick Simpson oil for cancer treatment, as a THC concentrate it was found by all users to cause a remarkable ease when it comes to getting smooth sleep which makes it a recommended cure for insomnia sufferers, miraculous relief of pain in the whole body which is particularly the reason Rick Simpson oil is used to treat diseases such as arthritis, and relief of nausea which makes the oil perfect for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Basically, if you are trying to lay off opiates or alcohol, with Rick Simpson oil you would be good to go because the odds are very low that you would relapse given that the marijuana oil will be substantially easing the pains of withdrawal. The pains of withdrawal are after all the main reason behind relapses.
Aside from the researches and studies conducted in the recent years, marijuana was known much earlier by recovering addicts to be a major aid in the recovery process. Anecdotal remarks to this effect are everywhere on the internet along with testimonials by many recovered addicts. Cannabis therapy has actually been used for more than 100 years to help recovering addicts. I will end this article with a quote written in 1969 by Tod H. Mikuriya M.D., who was for decades an advocate for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes:
“Because cannabis did not lead to physical dependence, it was found to be superior to the opiates for a number of therapeutic purposes. Birch, in 1889, reported success in treating opiate and chloral addiction with cannabis, and Mattison in 1891 recommended its use to the young physician, comparing it favorably with the opiates.”