Marijuana Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Current Opioid Use Disorder Treatment and Their Shortcomings

Opioid addiction and dependence: opioid replacement therapy

Opioid replacement therapy is a treatment for opioid addiction. Opioid addiction happens when a person’s mind and body come to rely on a supply of exogenous opioids which affect endorphin/opioid receptors and produce pain relief and euphoria. Addicts may go to great lengths such as stealing and other criminal acts to get money to get their drug of choice. In the early 2000s, many people became addicted to an opioid called Oxycontin. From there, as oxycodone became less easy to get and more expensive, people switched to cheaper heroin, and finally that heroin began to be replaced or adulterated with fentanyl, and carfentanil, a very dangerous and potent opioid used to tranquilize elephants. When a patient comes to a doctor for help with addiction to opioids, he may be referred to a methadone clinic or a doctor that administers buprenorphine. These are two longer-acting opioids which will prevent opioid withdrawal, a painful condition often described as feeling like you are dying, experiencing nausea, vomiting, pain, shakes, and incontinence. Getting these longer-acting opioids from a doctor or clinic allows the patient to stabilize their lives. They stop doing crime and taking desperate action to get their drug of choice. They are able to function on these two drugs as they produce a lesser amount of high and euphoria, though it is possible to abuse both. Buprenorphine is sometimes combined with naloxone, an opioid antagonist, to prevent abuse. If one tries to shoot it up, the antagonist will prevent euphoria and may induce rapid withdrawal.

There are two major drawbacks to opioid replacement therapy. The first is that it is not in fact true that these medications cause no euphoria. In fact, they can cause a high when abused, though perhaps the majority of patients use them correctly and not to get high. Methadone when combined with benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin, produces a high which some say is indistinguishable from that of heroin. Also, patients with serious addiction disease will often get these medications from their doctor, keep them in their cheek, spit it out then shoot it up. Doing this can cause vascular damage but addicts are compelled to engage in these risky types of behaviors due to the disease.

The second major drawback is that many people want to be completely free of drugs yet find when they try to quit methadone, it has one of the worst withdrawal syndromes of any opioid. Buprenorphine also has a withdrawal syndrome, said to be milder than that of methadone, but still frightening and disheartening to patients. Patients may relapse on street drugs while they are being weaned off of methadone. Some unscrupulous clinics may even practice intentionally dropping the dose too fast, in order to cause the patient to request to continue on methadone, such that the clinic does not lose a customer.

Figure 1.
Some patients use an herb called kratom (mitragyna speciose) to address everyday stress and pain and to halt opioid withdrawal. There are currently no guidelines for medical use and few scientific studies, though the plant has been used for decades in countries like Thailand to address opium addiction withdrawal stress. It has more or less been confirmed to bind to opioid receptors, but in a slightly different way, producing less dependence and withdrawal, though both are still possible for users.

Interactions between Cannabis Sativa (marijuana) and Opioids

Interaction between cannabis and opioids have been rarely studied. Studies available provide conflicting data. For example, CB1 agonism seems to sometimes produce an aversion to morphine. In other contexts, opioids and cannabis appear to increase the rewarding effects of each drug. Also, cannabis can improve symptoms of opioid withdrawal, such as pain, nausea, and diarrhea.

Medical marijuana uses and benefits

Medical marijuana appears to be a good candidate to aid in the opioid epidemic. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can present as nausea, back pain, diarrhea, and shaking. Each of these symptoms can be treated with marijuana. However, such usage should be done under a doctor’s supervision and care. Marijuana can also have an antidepressant effect and anti-pain effect which may be able to squash some of the motivations for using opioids. Marijuana overdose deaths have not been reported, suggesting an excellent safety profile for cannabis.

CBD Pills for Pain

Medical Research: CBD for Pain and Opioid Addiction

Is CBD effective in treating heroin addiction?
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is a non-addictive and non-psychoactive (produces no high) cannabinoid present in industrial hemp.
An analysis in Neurotherapeutics in 2015 examined studies on the suitability of CBD to affect opioid addiction. They discovered that the fact that CBD produces no high and reduces anxiety, makes it a great candidate for further study in the prevention of opioid relapse. It may help reduce cravings and the pain and anxiety that may lead to opioid seeking (Hurd, Yoon, and Manini).

A 2017 study in mice discovered that CBD dose-dependently blocked the reinforcing effects of morphine. It also exhibited no signs of euphoria and reinforcing effects of its own. This means the drug is producing no high and is blocking the high from opioids (Markos).

A 2018 murine model of cancer pain demonstrated that CBD produced an improvement in the anti-pain effects of morphine. This means that CBD can allow a patient to get the same pain relief from lower doses of opioid drugs if taken in combination with CBD (Harris, Gul, and ElSohly).

These studies appear to show the ability of CBD to treat various facets of opioid addiction. This research is very promising and is ongoing. The bulk of the studies to prove effectiveness are yet to be done, but you can use CBD for everyday anxiety and pain.

Should you use Hemp oil vs CBD oil for anxiety associated with withdrawal? You need CBD oil in fact. Hemp oil may not contain sufficient levels of CBD, as it is processed from the hemp seed which contains little CBD. Be sure to get CBD oil instead, and check to be sure it contains sufficient CBD, at least 7 mg per dose.

Cannabis During Acute Opioid Abuse Withdrawal

Can weed alleviate acute opioid withdrawal symptoms? The picture is complicated. Some research and anecdotal evidence suggest marijuana can reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. Other evidence suggests no effect or even worsening of withdrawal. It’s possible that the dosage and THC content determines the outcome. An experiment using the synthetic cannabinoid called dronabinol produced positive results at low doses and bad results at higher doses. If one were deciding whether to try using medical marijuana for opioid withdrawal, the herb kratom is likely a better first try if one is going to use an herb to help alleviate symptoms. But, if thinking about using marijuana, it’s best only for people who are already regular smokers and know the dosage that gives you pain relief and the dose that is too much for you and produces panic.

Opioid crisis statistics

Symptoms of opioid addiction

Opioid Use Disorder is a DSM-V Diagnosis, it is characterized by at least 2 of the following signs:

  1. You’re taking more for longer than needed.
  2. Efforts to reduce your intake fall flat.
  3. Much time is spent getting, taking, and recovering from the drug.
  4. You have cravings for the drug.
  5. Home, school, work obligations get ignored.
  6. Using despite losing friends and social connections due to the effects of the drug.
  7. You stop seeing people, having fun doing other things, and being effective at a career.
  8. Keep using despite physical health problems resulting from use.
  9. Using mental health problems caused by the drug.
  10. Tolerance sets in. You need more and you get less of a high.
  11. Withdrawal sets in when you don’t have the drug.

Conclusion: Effects of medical marijuana on the health of patients with opioid addiction

Interest in the topic was set off by the statistic that shows that states which legalized marijuana saw a drop in opioid-related issues. People are somehow using marijuana instead of opioids to get pain relief, stress relief, and euphoria. These aspects of the drug are not the enemy, not is having fun and giggling. It is the addiction, dependence, and pain which are the enemy.

We conclude that one who is already a regular smoker and is familiar with the effects of marijuana on his/her body might be able to use medical marijuana to help ease opioid withdrawal symptoms. A safer bet would be CBD, as it does not have the risk of producing panic and exacerbating the withdrawal. Finally, many people have found success with kratom. Well wishes and good luck!


Harris, Hannah M., et al. Effects of Cannabidiol and a Novel Cannabidiol Analog against Tactile Allodynia in a Murine Model of Cisplatin-Induced Neuropathy: Enhanced Effects of Sub-Analgesic Doses of Morphine. 2018. 11 8 2019.
Hurd, Yasmin L., et al. “Early Phase in the Development of Cannabidiol as a Treatment for Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 807-815. 11 8 2019.
Markos, James Roland. Cannabidiol Mitigates Opioid Reward On Conditioned Place Preference In Mice. 2017. 11 8 2019.

This article about Medical Marijuana was published on and updated on October 27, 2022 . Medical facts in this article was checked and article was medically reviewed by our . Author of this checked article is
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