While cannabis has been proven to be medically beneficial in a number of ways, the most recent advantage to emerge is in the looming fight against prescription pill abuse. There have been a handful of studies that show marijuana is a viable treatment for opioid addicts, so much so that it's even convinced the most conservative states to spearhead medical reform.
Recent findings also show that cannabis has value by replacing other highly addictive prescription pills such as popular benzodiazepine tranquilizers. Canabo Medical Inc., the largest owner of medical marijuana referral clinics in Canada, has partnered with external medical researchers to study the positive effects that pot use has on anxiety and pain patients.
The study found that within 90 days of being prescribed medical marijuana, 40 percent of these patients stopped using benzodiazepines completely. That number rose even higher to 45 percent for those using cannabis after one year. According to Dr. Neil Smith, the executive chairman of Canabo, the tremendous results were “extremely promising.”
“When conducting this type of research, experts are typically encouraged by an efficacy rate in the neighborhood of 10 per cent. To see 45 per cent effectiveness demonstrates that the medical cannabis industry is at a real watershed moment,” Dr. Smith said.
The collaborative study focused on 146 patients who were being treated with benzodiazepines for a variety of disorders. Over 61 percent of the patients were using medical cannabis for pain conditions, while 27.4 percent had a psychiatric disorder. The remaining 11.3 percent were using marijuana to treat neurological conditions.
Popular brands of benzodiazepines include Valium and Xanax, which create short-term side effects such as dizziness, headaches, and memory impairment. Extended use of these pills can lead to severe addiction and even to a potentially lethal overdose. According to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, 30 percent of prescription pill overdoses in the U.S. resulted from benzodiazepines use, second only to opioids.
It’s clear from these numbers that opioid abuse isn’t the only dangerous drug epidemic sweeping across North America, but research shows that cannabis can provide a life-saving alternative to both these highly addictive categories of prescription pills. As a growing number of victims continue to fall prey to opioid and benzodiazepine-induced overdoses, these studies will likely prove critical in the fight to legalize medical marijuana across the U.S. and beyond.