Will medical cannabis eventually replace prescription and OTC drugs?

We understand cannabis probably better than ever, but to understand it fully, we must combine the studies with patient surveys. We must research and then observe. This is exactly what the latest study by Dr. Frank D’Ambrosio set out to do.

When you type “marijuana”, “cannabidiol” or “tetrahydrocannabinol” in Google Scholar, you get access to a total of 580,000 scientific articles combined. This is proof that researchers love discovering the effects and side of cannabis and just the sheer amount of studies dealing with the intriguing marriage between cannabinoids from marijuana and our endocannabinoid system is more than enough to spark a few dozen intellectual conversations.

Unfortunately, what most of these studies lack, in order to evolve into legitimate treatment options, is the hype.

For example, the positive effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on epilepsy have been first proven in a 1980 research organized through the combined efforts of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and São Paulo Faculty of Medicine. The study concluded that:

“4 of the 8 CBD subjects remained almost free of convulsive crises throughout the experiment and 3 other patients demonstrated partial improvement in their clinical condition.”

And what did we do with this information? Absolutely nothing.

It took 30 years, an entire CNN documentary and one epileptic little girl on the verge of existence for cannabis to be publicly discussed as a legitimate treatment for seizure disorders. And that is largely thanks to the Figi family, who decided to pursue their own medicine in hard times.

So, today, I will try to bring at least a sprinkle of hype to the latest cannabis study in hope that we won’t need another Charlotte Figi to open our eyes.

A recent study of 4,276 medical cannabis patients, conducted by Dr Frank D’Ambrosio (a former orthopedic surgeon turned cannabis activist) and his team, set about to identify if medical cannabis can be successfully used to replace prescription and over-the-counter medications.

According to the findings of the study, we can safely say that this scenario is quite possible. But, there’s a twist to it.

As much as 51% of patients surveyed use medical cannabis to replace opioids. This is huge in itself, especially because the opioid epidemic is on the rise, both in Canada and the US.

Next, 27% of consumers use cannabis to replace antidepressants and 10% of them replace benzodiazepines.

Now, I am personally in favor of using cannabis products for depression and anxiety just for the fact that the use of anxiety medications is on the rise. As a recent study pointed out, more than a million  kids from the US, between the ages of 0 and 5, are on psychiatric drugs. To go one step beyond this stat, anxiety drugs are prescribed to almost 40,000 infants and toddlers each year.

At this point you may wonder what’s going on with other conditions. I mean, isn’t cannabis supposed to help with over 30 medical conditions?

The patients in this study listed a total of 39 unique conditions they believe cannabis helps them with, but the stats show that most of them use it for just five unique conditions: anxiety, insomnia, depression, pain and headaches.

This is not to say that cannabis users who suffer from other illnesses don’t find relief in cannabis, but rather that the majority of medical patients surveyed in this study use it for these five conditions listed above.

Pain is, however, the most prevalent condition in most cannabis surveys I came across, and this one is no exception. A total of 34% of patients said that they use cannabis for chronic pain and, coupled with other stats, we could argue that cannabis could successfully replace opioids. There are many side effects to opioids and this alone should be more than enough to feel excited about the future of cannabis.

To quote the study:

“Our research confirms that cannabis could be used to replace or reduce the need for many prescription medications, including antidepressants (26.5% – 1133 patients), benzodiazepines (4.8% – 419 patients), anxiolytics (3.4% – 145 patients), barbiturates (3.4% – 145 patients), and anticonvulsants (1.8% – 77 patients).”

I personally do not believe cannabis is the definitive cure for all illnesses, like many weed activists do. I think we still need pharmaceuticals in some respect, because there are medical conditions that do not originate from endocannabinoid insufficiencies.

My 15-year-old neighbor recently battled an advanced sarcoma with chemotherapy and won. Did it ever cross my mind that he should ditch his therapy completely and just use cannabis oil? Of course not.

Use whatever you have to use. Use the entire arsenal if you have to (or if you can take it). If you need antidepressants to straighten you out, do it. Just get back on track, look for a cause and treat it aggressively.

If weed can help you keep your focus and relax after a long day at work, why not do it? If you get the THC to CBD ratio right, and take the time to research for a product that you’ll feel comfortable with (flower, oil, topical, edible, etc.) you will undoubtedly be in a position to improve your quality of life with cannabis.

On another note, I do believe weed can reduce the abuse of prescription medications. And this is something we should focus on. Cannabis is a safe, safe compound. As Dr. Frank put it, it’s safer than ibuprofen. You would have to smoke 40,000 joints in 15 minutes for it to kill you. There are more than 2 million people suffering from prescription drug addiction in the US and God knows how many around the world. Medical cannabis can and will help.

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