Search Results for: opioids

Patients Frequently Substitute Cannabis For Anti-Anxiety Drugs

CANADA: Patients authorized to legally use medical cannabis frequently substitute it in place of benzodiazepines, according to a pair of new studies. Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. According to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control, benzodiazepines were attributed to over 11,500 overdose deaths in 2017.

In the first study, Canadian researchers assessed the relationship between cannabis and benzodiazepines in a cohort of 146 patients enrolled in the nation’s medical marijuana access program. They reported that 30 percent of participants discontinued their use of anti-anxiety medications within two months of initiating cannabis therapy and that 45 percent did so by six months.

“Patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy showed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates after their first follow-up visit to their medical cannabis prescriber, and continued to show significant discontinuation rates thereafter,” authors concluded.

In the second study, investigators at the University of Michigan surveyed over 1,300 state-registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of opioids and benzodiazepines. They reported that 53 percent of respondents acknowledged substituting marijuana for opioids, and 22 percent did so for benzodiazepines.

The studies’ findings are consistent with numerous other papers — such as those hereherehere, and here— documenting patients’ use of cannabis in place of a variety of prescription drugs, particularly opioids and anti-anxiety medications.

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Reduction of benzodiazepine use in patients prescribed medical cannabis,” appears in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Full text of the study, “Pills to pot: Observational analyses of cannabis substitution among medical cannabis users with chronic pain,” appears in The Journal of Pain. Additional information is available in NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids.”

Cresco Labs’ Dispensary Launches Newly Enacted Illinois Opioid Alternative Pilot Program

ILLINOIS: Cresco Labs, one of the largest vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operators in the United States, announced that the Company’s FloraMedex dispensary launched Illinois’ Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP) today vastly expanding the population of Illinois patients who can access medical cannabis in place of pharmaceutical opioid medications. Under this new program, patients with doctor approval can receive near-immediate access to cannabis products from an Illinois licensed dispensary. The OAPP eliminates the previously required red tape – fingerprinting and background checks – that often delay patients access to medical cannabis by up to three months. Under this act, Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) patients with one of the 41 qualifying medical conditions designated by the state of Illinois, and a doctor recommendation can also receive a temporary medical cannabis card online and make immediate cannabis purchases without waiting for their permanent card to be processed.

“The passage of the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is important legislation for the patients across Illinois that have been looking for an alternative form of relief, and we are very excited to make the first sale of medical cannabis under the program,” said Cresco Labs CEO and co-founder Charles Bachtell. “The program will open up access to medical cannabis across the state and eliminate the wait time and red tape previously required. Opioid addiction impacts up to two million citizens across our country, and we are proud that Cresco Labs is now able to offer Illinois patients a better treatment option and much-needed relief.”

The Alternative to Opioids Act was signed into law by then-Governor Bruce Rauner in August 2018. The Act significantly expands access to Illinois’ medical cannabis program by allowing patients to purchase medical cannabis in place of doctor prescribed opioid medications. In 2017 alone, over two million patients received nearly five million opioid prescriptions in Illinois. Now, under the pilot program, patients with one of 41 qualifying medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation can choose cannabis over opioid treatment and receive a temporary medical cannabis card online. Cannabis purchases can then be made immediately without waiting for a permanent card to be processed.

Cresco Labs Continues Illinois Expansion With Acquisition Of Two Dispensaries

ILLINOIS: Cresco Labs, one of the largest vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operators in the United States, today announced that it has signed dual definitive agreements to acquire licensed Illinois medical cannabis dispensaries MedMar Rockford and MedMar Lakeview, located in the popular Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago.

Cresco-Logo_BlueThese will be Cresco Labs’ fourth and fifth dispensary acquisitions, respectively, in Illinois. Cresco Labs will reach the maximum level of dispensaries any single company can own in the state, adding to the maximum three cultivation and processing facilities it currently operates. Cresco Labs is the only company in Illinois that has reached those limits, and it has the highest market share of any operator in the Illinois market.

“These acquisitions affirm our commitment to maintaining a strong retail presence in Illinois, which is one of the strongest and most quickly evolving cannabis markets in the United States,” said Cresco Labs CEO and Co-founder Charlie Bachtell. “The number of registered patients in Illinois has been increasing steadily, and the patient population is expected to drastically expand with the implementation of the Illinois Alternatives to Opioids Act, allowing for medical cannabis to be dispensed in place of pharmaceutical opioid medications. We will continue to emphasize compliance, control, efficiency and product performance as we position Cresco Labs for new opportunities presented in this dynamic industry.”

The owners of MedMar sought to give Illinois patients a true medical experience. Started by a group of pharmacists, a medical doctor and a former prosecutor, MedMar set out to ensure that Illinois medical cannabis patients received the best possible care in the safest possible environment. From the initial consultation to each return trip, MedMar wanted to make sure patients got superior treatment and superior service.

“We worked hard to create a facility that is welcoming and safe for our patients, follows all state regulations, and provides what I am confident to say is one of the best medical marijuana consultative experiences in the state of Illinois,” said MedMar Executive Vice President John Sullivan.

“Cresco’s focus on the patient experience, patient education, and patient results aligns well with our values and intertwines perfectly,” Sullivan added.. “We know our patients are in the best hands with Cresco.”

Under the terms of this non-material transaction, Cresco Labs will pay an undisclosed amount of stock and cash for the deal. The transaction is expected to close before year-end subject to customary closing conditions including approval from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).


Study: Marijuana Dispensaries Associated With Localized Reductions In Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths

CALIFORNIA: Counties that permit the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries possess reduced rates of opioid-related mortality, according to the findings of an academic research paper published on the SSRN online network.

Researchers from Claremont McKenna College in California, the University of Georgia, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock assessed the localized impact of dispensary operations on opioid-related mortality.

Authors reported, “[W]ithin MCL (medical cannabis law)-adopting states, counties with dispensaries experience six percent to eight percent fewer opioid-related deaths among non-Hispanic white men, while mortality due to heroin overdose declines by more than ten percent.”

They concluded, “Extrapolating our results implies that, for every 100,000 non-Hispanic white men, 10 fewer opioid-induced fatalities would have occurred between 2009 and 2015 if dispensaries were present and operating in every county within each MCL state.”

Prior studies have consistently identified a relationship between legal cannabis access and reduced levels of opioid-related abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “The effect of medical cannabis dispensaries on opioid and heroin overdose mortality,” appears online. NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids,” is online.

Survey: Cannabis Use Becoming Common Among Older Adults

COLORADO: The use of cannabis is relatively common among those over the age of 65 who reside in a legal marijuana state, according to data published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Investigators from the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus anonymously surveyed older adults at a pair of ambulatory geriatric primary care clinics in Colorado.

Thirty-two percent of respondents reported having used cannabis following legalization, and 16 percent reported that they were current users. Subjects were most likely to report using cannabis to mitigate symptoms of pain, anxiety, and depression, or to stimulate appetite.

Authors concluded: “[O]ur survey of ambulatory older adults from Colorado demonstrated that marijuana use in this population was common. Respondents reported using recreational marijuana to target a variety of medical symptoms and conditions with few reported adverse effects. Thus, it is prudent for primary care providers of older adults to inquire specifically about marijuana use before considering prescription changes or additions.”

Separate studies find that self-reported cannabis usage among older Americans is rising dramatically, and that many seniors reduce their use of prescription medications, particularly opioids, following their marijuana use. According to clinical data assessing seniors’ long-term use of cannabis, consumption is safe and is associated with a “significant improvement” in subjects’ “overall quality of life.”

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Characteristics and patterns of marijuana use in community-dwelling older adults,” appears in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Study: Adjunctive Cannabis Use Improves Treatment Retention In Opioid-Dependent Subjects

MISSOURI: The intermittent use of cannabis can play a positive role in opioid-dependent subjects undergoing treatment, according to a review published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis assessed data evaluating the relationship between the use of cannabis and opioids.

They reported, “Adjunct cannabis use alongside current treatment strategies could help to improve the number of individuals engaging in OUD (opioid use disorder) treatment, as well as increase treatment retention rates.”

Specifically, authors acknowledged that the use of CBD is associated with reduced opioids cravings and relapse, and that cannabis acts synergistically with opioids to provide analgesic benefit at sub-therapeutic doses. Authors also suggested that “cannabis may be an efficacious tool” in the treatment of symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal.

They concluded: “The opioid overdose epidemic is arguably the worst public health crisis in U.S. history. … A continental crisis of this magnitude warrants the immediate implementation of novel strategies that prevent opioid misuse, overdose, and death. Growing pre-clinical and clinical evidence appears to support the use of cannabis for these purposes. The evidence summarized in this article demonstrates the potential cannabis has to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, reduce opioid consumption, ameliorate opioid cravings, prevent opioid relapse, improve OUD treatment retention, and reduce overdose deaths.”

Separate clinical data published online last week in the journal Addiction reported that daily cannabis users undergoing therapy for opioid dependence are far more likely to complete their treatment regimen than are non-users

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Emerging evidence for cannabis’ role in opioid use disorder,” appears in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids,” is online.

MedMen Acquires Illinois Dispensary Seven Point; Continues US Expansion

CALIFORNIA:  MedMen Enterprises announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Seven Point, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary located in the historic Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.

Illinois is one of the fastest growing medical marijuana markets in the country. Since the beginning of the year the number of qualifying patients increased 41 percent to 42,203, and retail cannabis sales grew 35 percent, according to the state. Illinois also expanded its medical cannabis program recently to allow people who have been prescribed opioids the opportunity to obtain temporary medical cannabis cards.


“This acquisition brings the MedMen brand to yet another major stage,” said MedMen CEO and Co-founder Adam Bierman. “MedMen has established a presence in the primary markets of California, Nevada and New York. Our strategy has been to put our brand in high visibility commercial districts in popular locations like Beverly Hills, Manhattan, Las Vegas, and Oak Park, just outside Chicago, fits the mold perfectly.”

Seven Point is located in a high foot traffic shopping district among popular restaurants, cafes and major retailers like Whole Foods, Gap and Pier 1. This week, MedMen also announced the acquisition of a medical marijuana dispensary in Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as cultivation and processing operations. Currently, MedMen operates dispensaries in three states, including seven in the Los Angeles area and one in Manhattan.

Study: Cannabis Lozenge Associated With Reduced Opioid Use

CALIFORNIA: Patients who consume plant-derived cannabis extracts in the form of an oral lozenge report reductions in chronic pain and opioid use, according to clinical data published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Investigators from the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain assessed the safety and efficacy of the Trokie brand lozenge in a cohort of medical cannabis patients in California. The lozenges contained standardized quantities of THC and/or CBD.

Researchers reported: “[T]he use of Trokie lozenges is associated with a self-reported pain reduction in chronic, non-cancer pain patients. … [T]he proportion of participants reducing or discontinuing opiate analgesics was … 84 percent, similar to what has been previously found in a study based on patient self-reports. … [T]he findings support the need for conducting a phase 1 clinical trial to formally characterize the pharmacokinetic profile of Trokie® lozenges in humans.”

Several prior studies have similarly reported that chronic pain patients enrolled in state-sponsored medical cannabis access programs reduce or eliminate their use of opioids over time.

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: Full text of the study, “Self-reported effectiveness and safety of Trokie® lozenges: A standardized formulation for the buccal delivery of cannabis extracts,” appears in Frontiers in Neuroscience. NORML’s fact-sheet highlighting the relevant, peer-reviewed research specific to the relationship between cannabis and opioids is available online.

Illinois Governor Signs Landmark Medical Marijuana Legislation

ILLINOIS: Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed the Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018, adding those who might otherwise seek opioids for pain management to the list of those eligible for medical marijuana.

“This law will give thousands of Illinoisans who struggle with the negative side effects of opioids, including harmful addiction, another choice to manage their pain,” the governor said. “This is not about personal opinions about cannabis. It’s about giving people more control over their own health care and pain-relief options.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports opioid deaths in Illinois increased 13 percent from 2016 to 2017. Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that states with medical marijuana dispensaries have seen a 14.4 percent decrease in the use of prescription opioids.

The new law, Senate Bill 336, puts in place a pilot program that will not compromise patient safety or diminish medical marijuana program standards, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Licensed physicians must certify an individual has a medical condition for which an opioid has been or could be prescribed. Participants must register at a licensed dispensary. The program is limited to individuals 21 and older. Dispensations are limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days and cannot exceed 90 days per physician certification.

The Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018 also allows those applying for a medical cannabis registry card for one of the qualified conditions to access medical cannabis while their application is being reviewed.

“Dealing with the opioid crisis in Illinois is a top priority for this administration, and it is one that requires innovative solutions,” Rauner said before the bill signing at Chicago Recovery Alliance this afternoon. “This law will help people avoid opioid addiction and that will save lives.”

“Opioids can be highly addictive in a very short period of time,” said IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah. “Because the number of opioid deaths continues to rise in Illinois, although at a much slower pace, we understand a person’s hesitancy in filling an opioid prescription. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program will offer people another option in managing pain.”

“Senate Bill 336 is a sincere, bipartisan effort to address the opioid crisis in our country,” said Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Elmhurst, who attended today’s signing. “If a patient has been prescribed an opioid, by allowing them to use medical marijuana under the direction of a doctor, we are giving them a safer alternative to treat pain. In Illinois, more people died last year from opioid overdoses than fatal car accidents. We have to address this dangerous epidemic.”

“We’re facing a full-blown crisis in Illinois, especially in our rural communities, with the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who co-sponsored the legislation in the House. “Expanding the use of medical cannabis as an alternative will reduce opioid use and help us truly get a handle on this epidemic. I applaud the governor for signing it into law.”

“The opioid crisis is getting worse at an alarming rate,” said Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. “This law gives people a chance to act quickly and pursue a safe, alternative treatment if they choose. I am thankful for the support I received from both sides of the aisle, to the governor for signing this measure into law, and to all of the partners and advocates who helped make it happen.”

The Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018 is effective immediately.

How Legalized Marijuana is Changing The Healthcare Industry

by Trevor McDonald

Medical marijuana continues to be a hot-button issue, and we can expect that to continue until it’s legalized in all 50 states. But as the debate heats up and more states approve medical marijuana, we can look to the early adopters to find out what’s working.

Here are a few ways legalized marijuana is changing the healthcare industry.

Fewer opioid overdose deaths

In states that have legalized marijuana, we’re seeing fewer deaths from opioid overdose. In fact, a 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association study found that states with medical marijuana programs have a 25 percent lower opioid-related death rate than states that haven’t approved marijuana for medical use.

America’s addiction epidemic is currently claiming an average of 115 lives every day, so this is clearly an issue that is rocking the healthcare in addition to thousands of families. If we can reduce those overdose deaths by 25 percent, that would equate to nearly 29 fewer overdose deaths – every day.

Marijuana is showing promise for chronic pain

Harvard researchers completed a systematic review of the available research and found that almost all patients who took marijuana for chronic pain saw some improvement.

This is likely why we’re seeing fewer opioid prescriptions in states that have legalized marijuana.

For those who understand how both of these medications work, this news should come as no surprise. Opioids and marijuana both work as analgesics, so they block pain signals within the nervous system. THC binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors to block pain signals while opioids bind to opioid receptors.

A Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research study suggests that patients even prefer cannabis over opioids. Researchers found that 81 percent of patients who used opioids believe that adding medical marijuana is more effective than opioids alone.

Fewer prescriptions for anxiety and depression

In states that have legalized medical marijuana, doctors seem to prescribe fewer doses of anxiety and depression medications. A 2016 a Health Affairs study found that Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat these conditions dropped. Interestingly, researchers only found a dip in prescriptions for conditions that marijuana can effectively treat. They did not see the same drop in other prescriptions.

It’s important to note that marijuana can exacerbate some mental health conditions, and it can even make anxiety worse for some people. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has also been associated with psychosis in some cases.

Medical marijuana has emerged as an alternative to many prescription medications with dangerous side effects. Because of this, the benefits of using marijuana in these areas far outweighs any risks.

Still, we must remember that medically-approved marijuana is in its infancy. At best, we have about two decades of history to draw from. As more states legalize cannabis, we’ll have a better picture of its full impact on the healthcare system.


Author Bio: Trevor is a freelance content writer and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.