Opiates are a category of drugs that are intended, and used in medical practice, as treatment for severe pain. Opiates are considered the most highly addictive of all drugs – among the most well-known are morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. Opiate abuse may be developed intentionally (as a sane choice) or unintentionally (as a result of taking legally prescribed, opiate-based painkillers for a long period of time). Regardless of the reason, addiction to opiates always leads to severe damage to major internal organs and causes malfunction and overall health deterioration. Early symptoms include dehydration, sweating, mind fog, confusion, insomnia, altered perception of temperature, muscle aches, skin-crawling etc. Late symptoms of opiate dependence are nausea, diarrhea, abnormal cramping, vomiting, tachycardia and restless legs syndrome.
Treatment for opiate dependence is always based on the way the addiction was developed in each particular case. If the patient has been using opiates illicitly, then withdrawal is supplemented with methadone (or other drug-replacements) and psychological counseling. The effectiveness of this method of treatment varies significantly and is known to lead to relapses, because basically one drug is replaced with another. Recent clinical studies show that medical marijuana may be a valid option, instead of methadone, since THC, its prominent component, is proved to suppress sensitivity to opiates.
For patients who developed their dependence as a result of the need to control legitimate pain, treatment options must include a pain reliever other than the drug abused. Studies related to suppressing cancer-derived pain, show that medical marijuana is a decent analgesic, and can successfully ease virtually any pain. Besides, addiction to medical marijuana is moderate and can only be developed in case of uncontrolled use – which is not an issue if it is legally prescribed. There have also been reports that individuals being treated for opiate dependence are more likely to stick to the treatment plan when they use medical marijuana as part of the plan.