Dr. Oz: Marijuana Vs. Opiates
Codeine, Oxycontin, and Vicodin are some of the most prescribed drugs in America to treat chronic pain. But today, Dr. Oz investigated whether marijuana would be a better alternative.
Over-prescription of drugs has become an epidemic. More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Each year, 250 million prescriptions are written for those sufferers. 12 million people are abusing painkillers, with nearly 50 dying every day from overdosing.
Research shows that states with legalized medicinal marijuana have nearly 25 percent less overdoses from prescription pills. Dr. Oz believes medical marijuana might be a better alternative to opiates.
Dr. Oz: Opiates Vs. THC
The active ingredient in pain pills like Codeine and Vicodin is opiates. Opiates break down into the bloodstream and affect a specific area of the brain to dull your body’s responsiveness to pain. As time goes on, you’ll have to take more, because the body builds resistance to opiates. This leads to more prescription and more addiction issues.
Marijuana has an active ingredient called THC, which is quickly pulled through the bloodstream in the lungs, to the exact same part of the brain. It gives the same type of relief from chronic pain that opiates do.
Dr. Oz: Is Marijuana Good For Chronic Pain?
Dr. Oz talked to two experts about this issue, including specialist Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, who said that marijuana might be more effective in treating cancer-related pain, MS-related pain, and pain from HIV or AIDS. People who have chronic pain also often have loss of appetite and many have issues with nausea, which is compounded by the nausea side effects from opiates. In those cases, medical marijuana might be better for them.
Many people are concerned that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” but that’s usually not in reference to medical marijuana, it’s talking about recreational use. But it is a concern. People who smoke the marijuana also have the issue of asthma and other breathing problems, because the smoke is going into the lungs. It might also contribute to heart disease for the same reason. But these are issues you look at in the long term. In the short term, marijuana might cause confusion, tiredness, or less motivation.
Dr. Oz: Is Medical Marijuana Addictive?
The other expert Dr. Oz talked to is former addict and current addiction specialist Seth Jaffe, who said that anytime there’s a mind- or mood-altering substance, there’s a concern for addiction. Seth Jaffe also said that it’s easy to get a medical marijuana card. Some doctor’s offices even advertise for this. And medical marijuana is often grown to be very strong in THC.
Seth Jaffe said this is basically trading one pain treatment problem for another. However, the difference is that pain medication has physical withdrawal symptoms and marijuana does not. Opiate use is much more addictive and damaging than marijuana.
Dr. Oz: Medical Marijuana for Pain Relief
Dr. Oz also talked to Michelle, who has had chronic pain for years. Her doctor prescribed Vicodin, Codiene, and Morphine. But two years ago, she switched to medical marijuana. She did this because the pain medications made her feel like she was in a daze. She had issues handling money and couldn’t function right. She feels much more normal with the medical marijuana. She also said it only took her a few puffs a few times a day to get the effects.
Dr. Oz: More Research Needed On Medical Marijuana
Dr. Nampiaparampil practices in a state where medical marijuana is not legal. She said she wants more research to be done so that we can have more standardization and know when someone needs it. However, until it’s legal, we can’t do these things.
Dr. Oz said he respects the law, but he feels medical marijuana is a safer choice than pain medication.