Cornerstone principle of just about every addiction treatment program is that no other intoxicating substances should be used by the person in recovery, even if those substances aren’t of the same category that the person has an addiction issue with. So, for example, someone in recovery for meth or alcohol use would be prohibited from using cannabis, even if they’d never previously used it or never had any addiction episodes with it.
There is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to opiate-based pain medications, however. Even though these are highly addictive (to the point of being considered Schedule II controlled substances by the DEA) and produce euphoria that tempts patients to overuse them, recovery programs tend to not put the blanket prohibition on them that they do other types of intoxicants.
This thinking largely leans on their status as having legitimate medical value as pain relievers that work when no others will. Outside of the addiction risk, opiate painkillers are generally regarded as safe when taken in accordance with doctor’s orders. They don’t present the potentially dangerous side effects that the very small field of similarly potent painkillers do, such as NSAIDs (which can damage organs and cause ulcers) and corticosteroids (which can cause joint damage). And they’re one of the only things powerful enough to effectively combat severe and chronic pain.
Cannabis And Pain Relief
There’s another potential option for equally strong and regular pain relief, however. The problem is, it’s categorized as a Schedule I drug and not formally recognized by the federal government as having medical value, even though it has reams of studies supporting both its pain relief qualities and its vastly reduced risk of addiction.
That drug, of course, is cannabis, the substance that just about all recovery programs have blacklisted as intoxicating and a threat to cause a relapse. Even in states that have approved medical marijuana (not to mention recreational), the use of it while in recovery is almost always off the table as per the terms of the program.
To at least some degree, this conundrum is likely tied to legal CYA measures. Opioids are technically legal at the federal level if a doctor prescribes them. Cannabis, on the other hand, is never federally legal. For insurance purposes and to curtail lawsuits, then, programs err on the side of caution and forbid the substance that is always illegal at the highest level.
That keeps them safe, but it doesn’t necessarily serve the best interests of the patient. As of the November 2016 vote, 28 states and Washington D.C. have made at least some form of medical marijuana available to their residents — more than half the country. This has been done on the basis of scientific testing that routinely finds that cannabis not only works very consistently for pain, but is also safe.
Cannabis Without Intoxication?
A broader legalized medical status benefits the idea of cannabis use in recovery, but even were it to be moved to Schedule II or even legalized federally, there’s still the issue of it being intoxicating. Recovery programs tend to operate on the theory that if the patient is intoxicated, the risk of going back to their problem substance is increased.
However, cannabis is only intoxicating when THC, the primary psychoactive cannabinoid, is present. Other compounds, primarily CBD (Cannabidiol), have shown medical value on their own. The catch here is that THC has also shown medical value, and in some cases addresses conditions that CBD doesn’t seem to reliably have an effect on. Fortunately, high levels of CBD also tend to strongly reduce the psychoactive effect of THC. Strains have tended to emphasize THC over CBD as they have typically been aimed at recreational users, but with the continuing interest in medical applications we are increasingly seeing products aimed at delivering the greatest amount of beneficial cannabinoids with the least amount of intoxication possible.
There are some doctors, however, realizing that CBD (when isolated without THC) can be a very strong option for actually helping reduce the effects of withdrawal from drugs. CBD has been shown to help calm patients with zero psychoactive or addictive effect due to its strong capability to reduce oxidative stress and anxiety.
We have thoroughly researched CBD and have discovered that there is a form of CBD without THC legally available in all 50 states. This groundbreaking form of CBD is extracted from the hemp plant and is just as potent and effective as it’s medical marijuana counterpart. You can learn more about CBD HERE.
Cannabis, Addiction and Overdose
Recovery programs have a right to be cautious about approving cannabis. However, in many cases they are already approving opioids that are not only more intoxicating, but also a greater addiction risk and part of a national epidemic. Relief of chronic and serious pain is a medical puzzle that cannabis might very well be the answer to. As such, it’s a good time for addiction treatment providers to re-examine their positions on it, provided they feel confident it’s legally defensible.