1936 brought about the inception of reefer madness which portrayed cannabis as being responsible for the degradation of humanity, bringing about borderline psychosis to those who decided to use the plant. For the decades following, cannabis was portrayed as s a “gateway drug” meaning it acts as a starting point to an inevitable fall into heavy drug use and addiction. Recently, a Toronto based research group published a study showing the exact opposite, cannabis can in fact serve as an “exit drug”.
A large prospective study of 1,145 Canadian medical cannabis patients observed, self-reported opioid use and quality of life while using cannabis or cannabis products. The methods used to record the data included a full range cannabis use inventory check list, which collected a wide scope of data regarding the cannabis usage of the patients as well the World Health Organization Quality of Life Short Form, which is used to quantify pain levels along with general health and overall wellness metrics. An in-depth prescription drug questionnaire was also implemented to gather drug usage data.
28% of the 1,145 patients reported opioid use at the beginning of the study, while only 11% percent reported usage of these drugs at the end of the six-month observational period, more than a 50% percent decrease in use. Among those who continued the use of opioids the quantity of prescription drug use decreased by 78%. These data points are quite telling and imply that cannabis use among those using opioids may lead to great steps in the decreased usage of potentially harmful chemicals.
It seems to be quite clear that cannabis implementation with chronic pain patients can lead to an overall better quality of life by serving to decrease or cease opioid use entirely as a form of treatment. The overall improvement of public health is still left to be seen.