In a recent survey conducted in Canada, 71% of participants reported substituting cannabis for: prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco/nicotine and illicit drugs (1). The reasons given included (i) less side effect profile (39%), (ii) cannabis is safer (27%) and (iii) better symptom management (16%) (1). A trend toward reductions in negative health outcomes associated with substance abuse, has also been noted in jurisdictions where medicinal cannabis has been legalised (2). States with medicinal cannabis laws in the USA were found to be associated with lower rates of opioid overdose mortality (2). This may be an important finding as opioid drug abuse is on the rise in many countries around the world.
Is cannabis itself addictive?
Although the majority of people who use cannabis will never become addicted, it is estimated that around 1 in 10 will develop some form of dependence (3). Interestingly, medicinal cannabis such as THC:CBD (1:1 ratio) or high CBD formulations, have been used to manage craving and withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis dependence. These can include irritability, insomnia, nausea and cramping. Although all these symptoms will disappear themselves in a number of days, the use of medicinal cannabis during this period may help ease the transition and increase the chances of successfully stopping problematic recreational use and associated side effects of medicinal cannabis.
1. Lucas and Walsh. Medical cannabis access, use, and substitution for prescription opioids and other substances: A survey of authorized medical cannabis patients. 2017 Int. Drug Policy.
2. Bachhuber, Salone, Cunningham, & Barry. (2014). Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999–2010. JAMA Internal Medicine,
4, 1–6. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamai- nternmed.2014.4005.
3. Anthony, Warner, Kessler. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 1994;2:244–268.