Is Marijuana an Opiate? A Legal Opiate on the Rise?
With the recent buzz on the passing of legalization of Marijuana in numerous states and the lack of Marijuana falling into a primary drug category many may question, “Is Marijuana an Opiate?” Marijuana which goes by numerous names such as Weed, Pot, Cannabis, Grass, Dope, Reefer, Ganja, Hash, Herb, Chronic and numerous other slang names was until recently the most widely abused illicit drug. According to NIH, “ The main psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)” .Some of the effects of marijuana may be similar to that of opiates. These mixed effects leave the drug uncategorized, and the public confused.
What is an Opiate?
Synthetic versions of opiates are now considered opioids
An opiate is a drug derived from opium poppies which other drugs that are legal and illegal are created from. In modern times many synthetic versions of opiates are now considered opioids. Both natural and synthetic opiates have similar effects on the brain, and addictive properties According to the University of Michigan, only three types of opiate drugs qualify as natural which are Morphine, Codeine, Opium tinctures. Synthetic opiates include drugs such as Heroin, and prescription pills such as Hydrocodone, OxyContin, Percodan, Hydromorphone. When under the influence of opiates a person is likely to achieve pleasurable feelings of Sedation and Euphoria. Both of which create a pleasurable experience for the User. However, the interaction of the drug on the brain’s reward pathway creates a highly addicting experience as well.
Marijuana (cannabis) is the most commonly used illicit substance.
Marijuana (cannabis) is the most commonly used illicit substance. This drug impairs short-term memory and learning, the ability to focus, and coordination. It also increases heart rate, can harm the lungs, and may increase the risk of psychosis in vulnerable people. Research suggests that when regular marijuana use begins in the teen years, addiction is more likely: 1 in 6 users, compared to 1 in 9 among adults. In addition, recent research suggests that heavy cannabis use that starts in the teen years is associated with declines in IQ scores in adulthood.
Although many have called for the nationwide legalization of marijuana to treat medical conditions, the scientific evidence to date is not sufficient for the marijuana plant to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, for two main reasons:
First, there have not been enough clinical trials showing that marijuana’s benefits outweigh its health risks. The FDA requires carefully conducted studies in large numbers of patients (hundreds to thousands) to accurately assess the benefits and risks of a potential medication.
Second, to be considered a legitimate medicine, a substance must have well-defined and measurable ingredients that are consistent from one unit to the next (such as a pill or injection). This consistency allows doctors to determine the dose and frequency. As the marijuana plant contains hundreds of chemical compounds that may have different effects and that vary from plant to plant, its use as a medicine is difficult to evaluate.
THC-based drugs to treat pain and nausea are already FDA approved and prescribed
However, THC-based drugs to treat pain and nausea are already FDA approved and prescribed. Scientists continue to investigate the medicinal properties of cannabinoids—or the individual components of the marijuana plant (e.g., THC, CBD). The therapeutic potential lies in developing medications based upon cannabinoids that have therapeutic value but with limited-to-no risk for addiction, such as CBD
Are the Effects of Marijuana and Opiates Similar?
Those who consume marijuana can experience muscle relaxation, tiredness, decreased alertness and sedation, all of which are similar to the effects of depressants
Though derived from a different primary sources Opiates and Marijuana share similar effects. At times both substances leave the user feeling drowsy, sedated, euphoric, and lead to pain relief. However, there are prominent differences as well. The question of Marijuana being classified as into a different drug category such as a hallucinogen, stimulant, or depressant is still a prominent debate as well. Similar to Opiates and may even be questionable as a depressant, Marijuana shares common features associated with sedation. News Health Advisor states that, “ Those who consume marijuana can experience muscle relaxation, tiredness, decreased alertness and sedation, all of which are similar to the effects of depressants”. These effects are also similar to those who consume opiates and synthetic opioids. Unlike Opiates, Marijuana has hallucinogenic effects that can lead to distorted cognitive, emotional, and sensory perceptions. These distortions can create both negative and positive effects for the user. Some users experience anxiety, paranoia, and delusions depending on the amount of use and the strain. Common Marijuana strains which are high in hallucinogenic properties are those with large amounts of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive component. Similarly some of the effects of Marijuana may even have the stimulant properties of meth or cocaine. The Sativa Strain of Marijuana, also associated with Hallucinogenic properties has been known to produce feelings similar to stimulant drugs. These similarities include relieving depression, and energetic effects. With the abundance of diverse effects of Marijuana, the question of what category drug marijuana falls into becomes obviously confusing. The difference Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid strains of recent times have a wide variety of effects that contribute to this confusion. However, there appears to be the most commonality between the similarity of effects that are produced by Marijuana and Opiates because of the relaxing and sedating principle effects.
Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
Prescription medications and some over-the-counter medications are increasingly being abused (used in ways other than intended or without a prescription). This practice can lead to addiction, and in some cases, overdose. Among the most disturbing aspects of this emerging trend is its prevalence among teenagers and young adults, as well as the common misperception that because these are used medically or prescribed by physicians, they are safe even when not used as intended. Commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioid painkillers, stimulants, and depressants.
- Opioids are usually prescribed for pain relief. Commonly prescribed opioids include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin®), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin®), morphine, fentanyl, and codeine. In the United States, more people now die from opioid painkiller overdoses than from heroin and cocaine combined.
- Stimulants: Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®, Focalin®, and Metadate®) and amphetamines (Adderall®, Dexedrine®) are stimulants commonly prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Depressants are usually prescribed to promote sleep or to reduce anxiety. As measured by national surveys, depressants are often categorized as sedatives or tranquilizers. Sedatives primarily include barbiturates (e.g., phenobarbitol) but also include sleep medications such as Ambien® and Lunesta®. Tranquilizers primarily include benzodiazepines such as Valium® and Xanax®, but also include muscle relaxants and other anti-anxiety medications.
- “Syrup,” “Purple Drank,” “Sizzurp,” or “Lean”describes soda mixed with prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine—these cough syrups are available by prescription only. Users may also flavor the mixture with hard candies. Drinking this combination has become increasingly popular among some celebrities and youth in several areas of the country. Codeine is an opioid that can produce relaxation and euphoria when consumed in sufficient quantities. Promethazine is an antihistamine that also acts as a sedative.
Commonly abused over-the-counter drugs include cold medicines containing dextromethorphan (DMX), a cough suppressant. Products containing DMX can be sold as cough syrups, gel capsules, and pills (that can look like candies). They are frequently abused by young people, who refer to the practice as “robo-tripping” or “skittling.” Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant found in many over-the-counter cold medicines, is another over-the-counter medication that is used illicitly. Although not typically abused in itself, it is one ingredient used to produce methamphetamine.
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Is Marijuana a Good Substitution for Opiates?
While much research has been done on Marijuana use amongst Opiate users, which has identified Marijuana as a safer alternative, there are still questionable side effects. However, marijuana still leads to many health consequences for the user, and can result in Marijuana Use Disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, There are numerous short-term and long-term effects of Marijuana use which include:
Short Term Effects of Marijuana Use:
- Altered senses
- Altered sense of time
- Changes in mood
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- Impaired memory
Long Term Effects of Marijuana Use:
- Impair Thinking
- Breathing Problems
- Increased Heart Rate
- Pregnancy Complications
- Worsening Symptoms in Schizophrenia
If you have a drug or marijuana addiction, Get Help.
It is imperative if you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction along with depression or another mental disorder (Dual Diagnosis), please get help. Coast to Coast Recovery Centers provide you with the best Addiction Treatment Centers in the United States. There are a variety of treatment options available. Get Insurance Verification to determine if your insurance provider covers alcohol abuse or addiction treatment. At Coast to Coast Recovery, you can find a range of addiction treatment services from holistic healing and complementary therapies to 12-step programs and Christian-based teaching. Let us help you end a life of addiction and start your journey to lasting sobriety. To learn more, call (800) 210-8229.