April13 , 2024

Study Suggests Cannabis Could Be a Way Out of Addiction

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Whether or not cannabis is a gateway drug remains a matter of debate. There are valid arguments on both sides. But there is also the question of whether cannabis can be a way out of addiction. Both anecdotal evidence and studies suggest that might be the case.

A recently published study out of the University of British Columbia (UBC) looked at the drug habits of nearly 300 adult participants. Researchers looked at both unregulated drugs and cannabis. Note that cannabis is legal in Canada at this time. By comparing the habits of each of the participants, researchers were able to draw correlations between cannabis use and the use of illicit substances.

Managing Stimulant Cravings

Conventional thinking suggests that new cannabis users will ultimately reach a point when cannabis alone doesn’t satisfy. The gateway theory posits that users in such a position will then move on to harder drugs like meth, heroin, and cocaine. But do users really do so? And even if they do, can cannabis be utilized in the opposite direction? That is what UBC researchers wanted to know. They believe they have their answer.

All the participants recruited for the study reported having used both cannabis and illicit stimulants within the previous six months. Almost half reported daily cannabis use. Overall, the participants reported the following harm reduction strategies utilize through cannabis consumption:

  • Managing cravings for illicit stimulants – 45.1%.
  • Managing opioid cravings – 25.6%.
  • Managing pain – 17.8%.

Researchers concluded that daily cannabis consumption is linked to reduced stimulant use. They say their data demonstrates that users of illicit stimulants are ‘self-medicating’ as it were, relying on cannabis to reduce their cravings for crystal meth, cocaine, and opioids.

Anecdotal Evidence

Meanwhile, the medical cannabis industry itself says there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of chronic pain patients either reducing or stopping opioid pain medications as a result of using medical cannabis. Chronic pain remains the number one complaint cited by medical cannabis patients, according to the operators of the Utah dispensary Beehive Farmacy medical cannabis pharmacies in Salt Lake City and Brigham City, UT.

Indeed, it is not unheard of for chronic pain patients to seek out medical cannabis specifically because they do not want to take prescription opioids any longer. More than one patient has testified to being completely off opioids after using cannabis for a time.

Even in the recreational realm, the Canadian study seems to suggest that a fair number of hard drug users rely on cannabis to help control their cravings. This seems to suggest that cannabis could be utilized as a harm reduction strategy in the much broader fight against the hardest of hard drugs.

A Harm Reduction Strategy

Harm reduction is a philosophy already practiced in other areas. For example, cities with free needle programs provide both needles and safe spaces for drug addicts to shoot up. The goal is to prevent the spread of hepatitis, HIV, and other conditions associated with dirty needles.

We practice harm reduction by encouraging tobacco smokers to put down their cigarettes and take up vaping instead. While there remains some debate over vaping safety, the medical community generally accepts the fact that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Convincing smokers to switch to vaping reduces the harm they subject themselves to.

Whether or not cannabis is a gateway drug doesn’t change the fact that some drug users use it to control their cravings for other stimulants. And if that is the case, their cannabis consumption is actually reducing the harm and potentially leading them out of addiction. Think about it.