Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Michael Casey, Associated Press


CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The growing number of patients who claim 
marijuana helped them drop their painkiller habit has intrigued 
lawmakers and emboldened advocates, who are pushing for cannabis as a 
treatment for the abuse of opioids and illegal narcotics such as 
heroin, as well as an alternative to painkillers.

It's a tempting sell in New England, hard hit by the painkiller and 
heroin crisis, with a problem: There is very little research showing 
marijuana works as a treatment for the addiction.

Advocates argue a growing body of scientific literature supports the 
idea, pointing to a study in the Journal of Pain this year that found 
chronic pain sufferers significantly reduced their opioid use when 
taking medical cannabis. And a study published last year in the 
Journal of the American Medical Association found cannabis can be 
effective in treating chronic pain and other ailments.

But the research falls short of concluding marijuana helps wean 
people off opioids - Vicodin, Oxycontin and related painkillers - and 
heroin, and many medical professionals say it's not enough for them 
to confidently prescribe it.

In Maine, which is considering adding opioid and heroin addiction to 
the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, Michelle 
Ham said marijuana helped her end an addiction to painkillers she 
took for a bad back and neck.

Tired of feeling "like a zombie," the 37-year-old mother of two 
decided to quit cold turkey, which she said brought on convulsions 
and other withdrawal symptoms.

Then, a friend mentioned marijuana, which Maine legalized in 1999 for 
chronic pain and scores of other medical conditions. She gave it a 
try in 2013 and said the pain is under control. And she hasn't gone 
back on the opioids.

"Before, I couldn't even function. I couldn't get anything done," Ham 
said. "Now, I actually organize volunteers, and we have a donations 
center to help the needy."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom