Is Cannabis the Cure for Our Opioid Epidemic? We Fucking Hope So. Comments and Consumer Polls.

You’ve heard it a million times: “Overprescribed.” The US has been struggling with an opioid epidemic since the 1990s. More than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose since 1999, and 68% of those were opioid-related deaths (source). It’s a big fucking problem, and it’s getting worse – in 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids was 6X higher than in 1999 (source). 

It’s a seemingly unsolvable black-hole-shitshow caused by heartless pharmaceutical companies. But that little light at the end of the tunnel? Well, it could be cannabis.

 

Most have heard that cannabis could be the single best option for getting over this opioid epidemic – and if you’re reading The Mary Jane Experience – you are probably a fan of the plant and think that is a great idea.

 

Cannabis is an incredible pain reliever, and if used correctly, can reduce anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other conditions. Replacing harmful opioids with plant medicine seems like a no-brainer.

 

When 1906 New Highs shared a recent consumer poll (backed by Dr. Ethan Russo), we had to dig into the issue a bit. We asked Dr. Ethan Russo, Neuroscientist Andrew Scheyer, and even the US Department of Health and Human Services what they had to say on the subject.

 

1906 is a brand we have talked about a few times here, we interviewed the CEO, and we have also reviewed a few of their products (and they don’t even pay us…). Just recently, they closed an 18 million dollar capital raise (see here), and it’s looking like one of their goals for this money is to get people onto cannabis “pills” instead of opioids. 

Alongside their recent release of pressed plant medicine tablets, they polled over a thousand Americans about how overprescribed they feel and their curiosity about cannabis as an alternative/supplement to traditional pharma (see poll at bottom of article).

 

People hate big pharma so much we are even seeing a higher increase of cannabis use during pregnancy – despite doctor recommendations (more on that). The distrust is growing, but as always, we have to look into the facts from all angles. 


 

Here’s Who We Talked to: 

 

 

  • Dr. Andrew Scheyer is a neuroscientist that has dedicated his career to studying cannabinoids. Working in Marseille, Southern France he mainly focuses on the long term consequences of cannabinoid exposure during vulnerable windows of development

 

  • Dr. McCance-Katz  works for The US Department of Health and Humans Services as the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. She advises the HHS Secretary on improving behavioral healthcare in America and leads the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in HHS.She obtained her Ph.D. from Yale University with a specialty in Infectious Disease Epidemiology and is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She is board certified in General Psychiatry and in Addiction Psychiatry.

 



Dr. Ethan Russo on Cannabis and The Opioid Epidemic:

“It’s a very complex topic, but first let’s lay the groundwork. In 2017, there were 72,000 Americans that died in overdoses. Unfortunately, my niece was one of them. 

 

This is a situation where we have a great deal of evidence both from animal work and in humans of an opioid sparing effect of when cannabis is available as medicine. What that means is that people can lower their dose and often get off of chronic opioids when they substitute a cannabis based medicine.

 

There’ve also been various public health studies that show reductions in opioid prescriptions and total usage of opioids in places where cannabis is available medicinally. It’s not clear in all instances whether that’s a cause and effect relationship, but those of us that are working in this space have no doubts that cannabis is part of an exit strategy from excess opioid use. 

 

Among the findings are that we know that opioid doses are reduced particularly in painful conditions when cannabis is aboard and that it reduces withdrawal symptoms – or makes it a great deal easier for people to escape that trap.”



Neuroscientist Andrew Scheyer on The Opioid Epidemic:

 

“For treating pain, there is a lot of evidence that cannabis is a much safer medication. It depends on what kind of pain. There are a lot of different sources of pain and a very large percentage of the world (especially in the United States and other Western nations) suffers from chronic pain.

 

That pain comes from a lot of different sources. So it’s a complex answer. But, most pain medications carry a high risk of addiction – as we all know from this opioid epidemic that has been ravaging the United States for the past decade or more. 

 

So if cannabis can treat your pain, I think it’s absolutely a better alternative. I would say the same for chronic anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder. A lot of the drugs that people get prescribed like benzodiazepines, which include Xanax, Valium, clonazepam – are highly addictive. 

 

The withdrawal symptoms are not only unpleasant, but they’re potentially life threatening. If you can stay away from those and use small amounts of cannabis in place of it, I think that’s a great application for cannabis.”


Dr. McCance-Katz of The US Department of Health and Humans Services SAMSHA deivison:

 

There has been a fair amount of media coverage of some research that came out a few years ago that said that States that had loosened cannabis laws – either medical use or recreational use – that those States had lower rates of opioid overdose deaths. 

 

But just a few months ago there was another study that came out that  looks at data over a longer period of time and that trend has completely reversed. So it had been reported that there had been as much as a 21% drop in some of these areas that had readily available cannabis. That’s now changed to an increase of 23% in opioid overdose deaths in those areas. 

 

So this is something that is really quite worrisome. I think that there’s been a lot of media coverage of something that has turned out not to have been a finding that would hold up over time.

 

We’re very concerned about that. The use of cannabis, the use of opioids, these are often associated with other types of drug and alcohol use at the same time. These substances used together are a recipe for overdose. Unfortunately in many people, that’s going to also include death. 

 

So it’s really important that people understand that, that data has not held up and that they should be quite careful about the idea of cannabis and opioids together. The issue of using other substances and alcohol with cannabis and/or opioids is also something that is quite risky.”




 



Mixed reviews there. The US Department of Health and Human services is a bit more on the conservative side – not a big surprise, though cannot be totally discounted. There does look to be strong evidence for cannabis as a way to heal out country and world – and if you asked for our opinion – we would say that it seems way safer than prescribed drugs in this case.

 

We will keep digging to bring you the most current research!

 

Now that we got that out of the way, we can finally give you that 1906 Poll we talked about in the beginning of this post.

 

Findings from the 1906 New Highs survey show that people feel we are an overprescribed society and that they are looking for alternative remedies. People are ready to try plant-based medicines, including cannabis as an alternative.

herbalism




The Poll:

 

Overall Insights

 

  • Nearly 80 percent of all people say society has a problem with over-prescription of medications. 
  • While almost 90 percent of people surveyed said they take prescription or OTC medications, the vast majority, about 85 percent, are concerned about potential side effects. 
  • Three out of every four people say they want to find a non-prescription alternative to their prescription medications. 
  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents would be willing to try CBD products, cannabis products, supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines if they worked as well as traditional pharmaceuticals. 

 

Key Data & Insights 

We’re Overprescribed: The vast majority of people say society has a problem with over-prescription of medications. Key data includes: 

  • Over half of respondents, 51.72 percent, take two or more different prescription drugs a week. ● Almost 90 percent of respondents use OTC medications and 72 percent take at least one OTC drug a week. 
  • Interestingly, just over 20 percent of respondents believe that they are overprescribed medications, yet almost 80 percent (77.25 percent) believe that society as a whole is overprescribed medications. 
  • Nearly twice as many men (27.14 percent) believe that they are overprescribed medications than women (14.31 percent).  

 

Alternatives to Pharma and OTC: The majority of people have tried alternative medicines; the vast majority believe they work just as well as traditional pharmaceuticals; and most people would try alternative medicines that contained cannabis if it could treat their symptoms. Key data includes: 

 

  • The majority of people have tried supplements, herbs, or plant-based medications. 
  • 30 percent of respondents take supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines daily to treat their symptoms. 
  • More than 80 percent of people say supplements, herbs, or plant-based medications work just as well as traditional pharmaceuticals. 
  • The majority of respondents have used supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines in place of prescription or OTC drugs. 
  • Over 71 percent of respondents would be willing to try supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines that contained cannabis, if it could treat their symptoms. 
  • More than 80 percent of respondents feel that supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines can work as well as traditional pharmaceuticals. 

 

We Need Better Sleep: The vast majority of people report having trouble sleeping in the past month and more than half would be willing to try an alternative that includes cannabis to help them sleep. Key data includes: 

 

  • Nearly 80 percent of women and 71 percent of men said that they have had trouble sleeping at least once during the past month. 
  • 49 percent of men and 40 percent of women say they have taken a prescription or OTC drug to help them sleep in the past month. 
  • Over a third of women rate their overall sleep quality as either fairly bad (27.83 percent) or very bad (8.53 percent) over the past month. 
  • More than half of respondents would be willing to try supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines containing small doses of cannabis to improve their sleep. 

 

Anxiety is an Issue: Most people say they feel anxiety and say they would take an alternative medicine containing small doses of cannabis to remedy their symptoms. Key data includes: 

 

  • Almost 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men said that they have had trouble with anxiety at least once during the past month. 
  • Half of those respondents would be willing to try supplements, herbs, or plant-based medicines containing small doses of cannabis to reduce anxiety. 

 

Methodology 

 

This research project is a quantitative study containing 30 multiple-choice questions. Four questions were used for demographics consisting of gender, age, state of residency, and education; while 26 questions looked for insights regarding usage and thoughts around pharmaceuticals, OTCs, supplements, herbs, plant-based medicines, CBD, and cannabis. 

 

The survey included 1,042 total responses (n=1,042) from a nationally representative sample. The confidence level for the survey is 95 percent with a confidence interval of ±3.04. 

 

48.09 percent (n=501) of respondents were male and 51.91 percent (n=541) were female. All respondents are 18 years old and over. For a full demographic breakdown, refer to the appendix. 

 

Limitations: This study only included participants in the United States; therefore, the results may not be transferable to other populations due to cultural differences. This study, conducted in mid-September 2019, was distributed online; consequently, it may not be representative of people who do not have an internet connection. Survey participants were selected from over 250 “opt-in” panels, representing tens of millions of respondents 

 

Appendix 

 

Demographics of Respondents 

 

Quota Name Completes Conversion Total 

 

1042 92% 18 to 24 years old 139 90% 25 to 44 years old 432 92% 45 to 64 years old 328 93% Over 65 123 95% Male 501 93% Female 541 92% Hispanic 109 90% Not Hispanic 894 93% Black 134 92% White 751 93% Other ethnicity 137 88% Midwest 237 94% Northeast 193 91% South 396 93% West 196 89%

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