Prescription drug addiction: Could marijuana be the cure?

Prescription drug addiction: Could marijuana be the cure?

by Briona Haney

Over the years, more and more people have become aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse and addiction.

Yet, specialists have struggled to find a reliable treatment for those suffering the most.

Many doctors say the best options are alternative pain management treatments and tapering off high-risk drugs.

However, some marijuana dispensaries have argued that cannabis could also be the solution to the nation’s opioid and prescription drug crisis.

We found a dispensary owner in Humboldt County who says he’s helping people get clean with marijuana.

“What we do here at HPRC is not only educate about the use of cannabis but also the lifestyle changes that you may need to make to improve your status whether that be pain, sleep, anxiety,” said HPRC General Manager Bryan Willkomm.

Bryan Willkomm is the General Manager of Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata. He said they’ve seen high levels of success treating pain and anxiety patients with marijuana.

“So that’s why we employ a nurse on staff who also does wellness topics, weekly. To educate not only on the use of cannabis but how cannabis can be used in conjunction with other helpful lifestyle tools to improve your sense of well-being,” Willkomm added.

He says they use marijuana as a pain management alternative as well as treatment for prescription drug withdrawals.

Customers that use opioids for pain that start to use cannabis as an adjunct for opioids are finding that their opioid dose dramatically decreases.”

Cannabis may help with the withdrawal symptoms of opioids, absolutely. Some of those might be nausea in particular. Nausea, antiemetic if people are throwing up as well. Cannabis could be used to address the side effects of withdrawals from other drugs,” Willkomm said.

However, Dr. Greenberg with Shasta Regional Medical Center says he’s not so sure marijuana can be a reliable tool to get clean.

“There are other things that will work for other people. They just won’t work for most people. Marijuana doesn’t work on the area of the brain that we’re looking at,” said Addiction Medicine Physician at Shasta Regional Medical Center Dr. Greg Greenberg.

Dr. Greenberg says while there have been a few studies on using cannabis as a cure, there is nothing definitive about its effectiveness.

He prefers Medicine-Assisted Therapy, like using Suboxone to relieve the symptoms of withdrawal and tapering patients off of opioids.

“We promote evidence based treatment. So if you take people and you get them off of an opioid, and you go through counseling and things like that the success rates are maybe 10 percent in a month or two,” said Greenberg.

“There are some studies that show even lower amounts. We know on medication assisted therapy we’re looking at rates of 50, 60 percent in the same period of time. And so we know medication assisted therapy works,” Dr. Greenberg said.

To view the full list of available prescription drug addiction resources in Shasta County, click here.

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