Could Marijuana Help Treat Opioid Addiction? Pennsylvania May Soon Find Out

By Rita Giordano
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Though there’s no clear scientific evidence that it will work, supporters say medical marijuana could some day change the way we deal with opioid addiction.

PHILADELPHIA

As bad as getting off opioids the first time was, nothing prepared Briana Kline for trying to come back from relapse.

She was in deep, past the Percocets and other pills. This time it was heroin, even a close brush with fentanyl. But the medicine that so helped slay her cravings before didn’t seem to be cutting it.

“The Suboxone didn’t make me feel the way it usually does,” said Kline, 26, of Lancaster County. “I was struggling a lot with cravings. I’d go a couple of days, be OK. Then I’d go use again.”

So her family doctor suggested she give something else a try in addition to opioid-based medication, which is well-proven to offer more lasting recovery than abstinence alone.

“That’s when he started talking about medical marijuana,” said Kline, a pizza-delivery driver with two young children. “I was like, ‘Definitely. Let’s give it a shot.'”

In an opioid epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans a year, people like Kline and her doctor Michael Peck are unlikely pioneers in a drug-treatment experiment.

Though there’s no clear scientific evidence that it will work, supporters say medical marijuana could some day change the way we deal with opioid addiction.

About two months ago, Pennsylvania became the first state to approve medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid use disorder.

Doctors with the required credentials can offer medical marijuana to patients when treatments such as abstinence therapy or medication-assisted treatment have failed, or in conjunction with those methods.

The state has tapped eight universities to conduct medical-marijuana research, and hopes opioid use disorder will be among the topics for exploration, said a state Health Department spokeswoman.

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