Could marijuana become a treatment for heroin addicts?

Some think it offers a gateway out of opioid use

Matt Koesters | WCPO contributor

7:00 AM, Sep 25, 2016

 

Is marijuana a gateway drug? Carrie Roberts sure hopes so.

%page_break%Roberts, a consultant with Colorado-based Medicine Man Technologies, doesn’t believe that marijuana use leads to abuse of harder drugs, though. Instead, she thinks it might present a gateway out of risky drug use for people struggling with opioid dependency.

"I think we could save a lot of lives," Roberts said. "Right now, it’s really about needing to focus on harm reduction. That’s so much of what we’re seeing in other states."

Roberts points to a 2014 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that concludes "medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates." States with medical marijuana laws saw about 25 percent fewer overdose-related deaths than states without, according to the study.

Roberts argues that this could be the case in Ohio, a state in the throes of an opioid epidemic that saw fentanyl-related overdoses spike in 2015. Fentanyl continues to cause heroin users to overdose, and the more recent introduction of carfentanil into the drug ecosystem has provided cause for further alarm.

"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence regarding being able to use cannabis as a treatment, either for people coming off of opioid pain medication to help them through the withdrawal phase of it, or just to keep people from having to use it in the first place," Roberts said.

WCPO Insiders can find out how this idea relates to Ohio’s new medical marijuana legislation, and why some people think it’s a distraction.

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