Ohio Considers Medical Cannabis to Fight Opioid Addiction

An Ohio physician and medical professor believes medical cannabis should be used to treat opioid addiction in a state that saw a record number of overdose deaths last year, the Associated Press reports.

Dr. F. Stuart Leeds has been preparing data and research to submit to the State Medical Board of Ohio as it considers expanding the current list of conditions for which doctors can recommend medical cannabis. Leeds acknowledges the limited data, but he said some of the most telling research comes from his patients, some of whom are dealing with opioid addiction.

“Patients have been conducting their own self-experiments on a variety of street drugs for decades,” said Leeds, who practices and teaches family medicine at Wright State University outside of Dayton. “They know more about what marijuana will do for their chronic pain and addiction problems than we do.”

Cannabis products are expected to be available in Ohio in the next few months following delays in rolling out the program.

Leeds is on the registry of Ohio physicians who can recommend but not prescribe medical marijuana for 21 qualifying medical conditions, such as epilepsy and chronic pain. Opioid use disorder is currently a qualifying condition in three other medical marijuana states: New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Ohio’s Medical Board is accepting petitions on adding qualifying conditions through the end of the year and will consult with experts before making a decision sometime next year. Cannabis products are expected to become available in Ohio dispensaries in the next few months following delays in rolling out the program.

Some experts don’t think treating opioid addiction with marijuana is a good idea, including Dr. Mark Hurst, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Hurst declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press, but he told the Cincinnati Enquirer in August: “There is no scientific evidence that marijuana is an effective treatment for opioid addiction.”

Brad Lander, a clinical psychologist in the department of addiction medicine at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, is also skeptical. He said marijuana impairs judgment, motor control and memory, and is linked to amotivational syndrome, which causes apathy and a decreased interest in activities.

“Patients smoking marijuana don’t have the real motivation to do therapy to maintain long-term recovery or improve their lives,”

Lander told the AP.

Lander does agree with Leeds that there could be a possible short-term use for medical marijuana: easing the harsh withdrawal symptoms from tapering off buprenorphine, an opioid-like drug used by people in recovery to stave off cravings for heroin and prescription painkillers.

Lander said he is also open to the possibility of using CBD oil, which contains only tiny amounts of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes users high if it’s proven effective in treating addiction.

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