On September 8, 2018, Ohio will be implementing their first medical marijuana program. The program will help dispense marijuana as pain relief to people with health conditions such as fibromyalgia, and inflammatory bowel disease are already approved for the program, but addiction experts have doubts about its effectiveness treating other addiction
While some wellness advocates believe that marijuana can “cure” opioid addiction, many professionals in the addiction industry say that opioid users are exchanging one addiction for another. While marijuana may help people successfully withdraw from opioids, there aren’t any long-term studies suggesting that it can be successful for long-term sobriety.
For one thing, when you use marijuana, you’re high. People with a substance abuse disorder tend to go back to their drug of choice when they’re substituting one substance for another. When people relapse on opioids, there’s a higher chance of overdose after a period of abstinence.
In the states hardest-hit by the opioid crisis, medical marijuana is being administered experimentally for withdrawal from opioids. So far, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have begun to prescribe marijuana to “treat opioid use.” There are no details on how, specifically, marijuana would be used to treat opioid addiction.
In Ohio, the medical marijuana program is currently behind schedule so that they won’t be using it rowing and processing are behind schedule, so the product will not be available until later this year. Ohioans with at least one of 21 qualifying conditions can obtain a doctor’s recommendation to purchase marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries. Opioid addiction is not one of Ohio’s qualifying conditions. The Ohio Patient Network, which is advocating for the addition to the list, intends to ask the state to add it in November when the items are up for review.
“I haven’t really seen anything that this would be somehow the savior of addiction,” said Mary Haag, president and chief executive officer of PreventionFirst!, told Ann Saker of the Dispatch-Herald.
Haag explained that marijuana’s addictive power complicates its usefulness as a weapon against opioid addiction. “People seem not to be paying attention to that or are discounting that,” she said. “That is part of the concern that we have, in Ohio anyway, in unleashing marijuana this way.”
It’s up to regulators to decide if they’re willing to take the risk.