Use of Cannabis as a Response to the Overdose Crisis
"The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that is at least partially driven by harms associated with POM [Prescription Opioid Medication] use. States are passing laws allowing use of MC [Medical Cannabis] and patients are using MC, but currently there is little understanding of how this influences POM use or of MC-related harms. This literature review provides preliminary evidence that states with MC laws have experienced reported decreases in POM use, abuse, overdose, and costs. However, existing evidence is limited by significant methodological shortcomings; so, general conclusions are difficult to draw.
"The use of MC as an alternative to POMs for pain management warrants additional empirical attention as a potential harm reduction strategy. NASEM (2017) recommends more clinical trials to elucidate appropriate MC forms, routes of administration, and combination of products for treating pain, but access to MC products to fully evaluate these questions is challenging due to federal regulations. However, the recently funded National Institutes of Health longitudinal study to research the impacts of MC on opioid use is a critical step in the right direction (National Institute of Health, 2017, Williams, 2017). MCs potential as an alternative pain treatment modality to help mitigate the major public health opioid crisis, could be a missed opportunity if data on safety, efficacy, and outcomes are not collected and explored. Health care practitioners, particularly nurses who are charged with ensuring patient comfort, have a vested interest in providing viable alternatives to POMs when appropriate, as part of an integrative approach to pain management, and must advocate for more research to better understand the public health implications and risks and benefits of such alternatives."