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3 Fundamental Reasons Cannabis Can Be a Safer Alternative to Opioids

Is cannabis a safe & effective alternative to opioids? Here, we discuss 3 reasons we think it can, & offer information about addiction & pharmaceuticals.

Jason SanderJason Sander · Jan. 8, 2021 · 6 min read
3 Fundamental Reasons Cannabis Can Be a Safer Alternative to Opioids

By now, it’s no secret how destructive the opioid epidemic has been, as the over-prescribing of pharmaceutical medications led to many addictions and deaths in the U.S. Can cannabis be an effective alternative to opioids? Here are five reasons indicating the science as well as compelling anecdotal evidence that says the answer is yes.

1. No Known Overdose Deaths Attributed to Cannabis

In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared that the opioid crisis was a public health emergency. Overprescription of pain medications like oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin was arguably the biggest culprit for the crisis, often leading to patients becoming addicted and seeking illicit market opioids like heroin. Although opioid prescriptions thankfully have been reduced slightly since then, opioids continue to be a massive issue. Over 130 people die every day from an opioid overdose, amounting to over 45,000 deaths annually, and around 2 million a year are diagnosed with an opioid abuse disorder. At the height of the opioid crisis, overdoses were the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., exceeding motor vehicle fatalities. These figures are staggering and overwhelming.

Humans have been consuming various forms of cannabis for a multitude of reasons for centuries, and there have been no overdose deaths. This is the case for very few drugs. One of the only ways you could die from cannabis is if someone drops about ten pounds on your head from 50 feet in the air. Smoking too much cannabis can irritate your lungs, and ingesting an abundance of any amount can get you too high. But in the vast majority of cases, all you’ll need is a good night’s sleep, and you live to see another day with cannabis.

2. Natural Pain Relief

For years now, there have been many studies conducted on cannabis as an alternative to opioids for pain relief. Even if cannabis for pain is legal in a patient’s state, it still does put doctors and physicians in tough spots to prescribe. This is why we need to have more studies done to arrive at what form is the best for each patient’s pain, and exactly how much to prescribe. Eventually, we will get there with cannabis medicine, but we still have a long way to go. Of course, different cultivars might be better for pain relief than others, and it’s important to explore these. However, this is minor in comparison to the issue that millions of chronic pain sufferers are still forced to take potentially harmful pharmaceuticals when a safer alternative could be out there.

One thing is for certain - countless people have no qualms about giving you their anecdotes about how cannabis helped with their pain. Sooner or later, this anecdotal evidence will turn into peer-reviewed, FDA-approved evidence that will let doctors prescribe cannabis for pain relief. One of the greatest assets of the internet is that patients can connect with others who are experiencing the same pain - this lets us know we are not alone, and that others get relief from cannabis - whatever that relief may be.

3. A Potential Treatment for Addiction

Can cannabis help people get off hard drugs like heroin and other addictive opioids? There is only anecdotal evidence that it works at this point, and as with too many other cannabis-related issues, more studies need to be done. Unfortunately, the federal illegality of cannabis prevents much of this important research from being done.


However, one unaccredited treatment facility in Harmony, Maine is helping people addicted to opioids kick their habit by consuming cannabis. The facility is called Genesis Farms, and it was covered on the show Weediquette on VICE TV. You can watch the episode for free, and we think it’s worth the time. The attendees of the cannabis rehab do dabs under the guidance and supervision of their counselors.

The fact that the rehab is deep in the woods of Maine and far away from any hospital is a bit concerning for the attendees, but cannabis seems to be helping along with the guidance of counselors. Instead of numbing chronic pain, rehab goers are taught to feel it and manage it with cannabis. Medicating with cannabis helps people rehabbing with opioid withdrawal symptoms like vomiting and insomnia. Critics say that people are substituting one drug for another, but if it helps people kick opioids, I support it.

There have also been some studies done that cannabis can help alcoholics quit drinking for good. A harm reduction study said that recovering problematic drinkers who substituted cannabis for alcohol showed signs of better symptom management, fewer side effects, and less potential for withdrawal symptoms with cannabis than with booze. Naturally, cannabis is no magic wand, but these stories of former addicts breaking their bad habits by replacing them with cannabis sound very promising.

Opioid Addiction is Already a Qualifying Condition

Of course, counselors at the controversial rehab facility treating addicts with cannabis aren’t the only people who believe in the healing power of cannabis to kick an addiction. In Winter 2019, New Jersey added opioid addiction as a qualifying condition of medical cannabis. Nearby states New York and Pennsylvania had already had opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. Some patients went from hard use of opioids to using suboxone instead, but suboxone can be addictive as well.

Other opioid-addicted people were able to consume cannabis alone. This is mainly because they had a real drive to quit and that cannabis helps improve the quality of life for addicts by significantly reducing the harm of withdrawal symptoms. Mindset is the key for most of those in recovery, and consuming cannabis the right way can possibly help these people’s mindsets.

Everyone is Different

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating - there are no miracle drugs, and cannabis is included. It's an amazing plant medicine, truly one of a kind, with perhaps infinitely untapped potential - but it's a drug like any other. When consumed properly the way their doctors prescribed, opioids can be necessary, effective, and relatively safe for pain relief. There are simply some levels of pain that cannabis can’t touch for some people, and that’s okay. We’re not suggesting that all necessary pharmaceutical medicines be substituted for cannabis.

Everyone is different. Not everyone will respond the same way to a specific cannabis cultivar, or respond to cannabis at all. Even some people might be unfortunately allergic to cannabis. Some people don’t like the way cannabis makes them feel, or don’t feel as strongly as we do about its pain-relieving properties. And that’s okay.

Pharmaceutical medications help people with pain, mental health, or whatever else - as long as they are being used properly because not everyone can instantly drop all of their pills and use only cannabis. The moral of this last part of the story is this. You don't know some else's pain, whatever that pain may be. And no one but the person experiencing that pain gets to diagnose, treat, or otherwise tell them how to address that pain.


The content on this page is provided by HashDash for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional healthcare advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat any medical condition or ailment on your own. Always consult a physician or qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions about treatment. The information and products mentioned herein have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.

HashDash - Supporting the Cannabis Community and Educating Consumers

We hope you found value in our content on how cannabis can be an alternative to opioids. If you did, you might want to take a look at our other health-related articles. Be sure to check back to our blog often, because we post fresh content every week! Connect with us on social media: @hashdash.com on all platforms. We’ve got a ton of awesome cannabis-related content planned for 2021!

As a part of our dedication to cannabis education, we are building a database of knowledge with articles just like this one. One of the most essential applications of cannabis is how it is a versatile medicine and how it can be applied to help ease the pain and suffering associated with diseases and conditions.

HashDash is a cannabis matching platform, and we will continue to answer your questions regarding all things plant medicine as well as where to find the best dispensaries in your area. Be sure to sign up for HashDash if you haven’t already to discover your cannabis matches. As always, thanks for reading, and happy consuming!

Jason Sander
Jason SanderJason is a versatile writer and marketer with over ten combined years of experience working with clients in various industries. He couples this expertise with six years of writing for the cannabis sector as well as a passion for the business side, and the science behind the plant medicine.
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