Cannabis-based medications have already begun to replace a wide variety of conventional drugs in the management of common conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy and insomnia. A 2015 Canadian cross-sectional survey found that 80.3% of 410 respondents substituted cannabis for at least one prescription drug.
As well as this, there is evidence that some people are replacing alcohol and illicit drugs with cannabis – and potentially protecting against serious health risks by doing so. The 2015 survey also found that 51.7% of respondents substituted cannabis for alcohol, and 32.6% for other illicit substances!
The Case for Substituting Cannabis for Opioids
In US states that have legalised the medicinal use of cannabis over the last two decades, rates of prescription opioid usage have dropped significantly, as have death rates related to prescription opioid usage.
A 2015 “working paper” conducted by researchers at RAND corporation found that across 17 states, deaths due to prescription opioid overdose dropped by 16-31% after medicinal cannabis laws were established. This supports an earlier 2014 study concluding that opioid-related deaths were 25% lower in medicinal cannabis states.
A 2012 review of studies on the use of cannabis as a substitute or adjunct for opioids found generally encouraging results. Notably, a 1975 study compared THC and codeine, and found that 10mg THC was slightly less effective than 60mg codeine, but 20mg THC was slightly more effective than 120mg codeine. A 1990 double-blind study on a single patient showed that 5mg THC was as effective as 50mg codeine at managing chronic pain, with the added benefit of reducing muscle spasticity…