We all know our country is struggling to find ways to battle the destructive opioid epidemic. The state of Maryland is facing its own battle with over 49,000 residents suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD). With over 30 states now on-bored with medical or recreational cannabis, some are considering it as a possible treatment for addiction to drugs like oxycodone and heroin. But does it work?
States that have implemented medical cannabis laws have seen a reduction in opioid prescriptions for patients on Medicaid and Medicare health plans. These states are also seeing a drop in opioid overdose deaths. So why isn’t Maryland including cannabis as a treatment for OUD? Here is an overview of what the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission recently reported.
Can Maryland Medical Cannabis Treat Opioid Use Disorder?
The growing anecdotal evidence is clear – medical cannabis can be a useful tool for treating opioid cravings and easing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal. Opioid patients also report that cannabis helps them sleep and reduces the intensity of cravings.
The fact is, cannabis poses less of a risk than current FDA-approved opioid-based treatments like methadone. Patients see better treatment outcomes when they have access to cannabis, and many health care providers have seen high-dose opiate patients significantly reduce or eliminate opiates with the use of cannabis. So why isn’t Maryland using cannabis is fight OUD?
Why isn’t Opioid Use Disorder a Qualifying Condition in Maryland?
The Maryland State Assembly considered adding OUD to the list of qualifying conditions that can be treated by medical cannabis, but some national groups were against the idea. Their concern was over creating additional drug dependency, and the lack of clinical evidence.
But here’s the catch…
The main reason there is a lack of clinical evidence on the benefits of cannabis for OUD is that it’s classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. This classification has severely limited most medical cannabis research, forcing the cannabis community to rely on anecdotal evidence (what patients self-report).
Fortunately, the DEA’s view on cannabis and its medical potential is beginning to change. With the growing number of states that now have laws which allow medical or recreational cannabis use, the DEA acknowledges there is a need for serious medical research.
Cannabis for OUD isn’t a new idea, and a number of states in the US are considering adding cannabis as an addiction treatment. New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have already approved cannabis for opioid addiction, which could promote the idea on a national level.
The bottom line?
As of now, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission acknowledges that even though there is mounting anecdotal evidence for using cannabis for addiction, the scientific evidence is not there yet. Based on their medical literature review, the commission’s position is that medication-assisted treatments with drugs like methadone and naltrexone are best.
If you’d like to try cannabis for one of the many conditions that do currently qualify in Maryland, we’d love to help. Schedule a visit or just drop by. We can’t wait to see you!