Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jun 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: B6


Research suggests a safer alternative to powerful painkillers

OTTAWA - Leading medical experts say legalizing cannabis may offer new
hope to one day reduce the use of opioids -powerful drugs frequently
prescribed for the treatment of pain.

Dr. Mark Ware, a globally-recognized researcher and the vice-chair of
the federal government's task force on legalizing marijuana, said a
legal framework for cannabis will help to facilitate further research.

He said published scientific research already suggests cannabinoid
molecules interact with the brain in a way that has an important
"synergy" with how opioids interact with receptors in the body.

"This appears to be a very profound affect," he said. "Research
suggests there are important interactions between the two systems."

U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes have
also reported lower rates of deaths by opioid overdose, he added,
noting what is lacking now is clinical studies to definitively say a
patient on a high-dose opioid could use a cannabinoid to reduce their

"That's the challenge we have - to take this interesting possibility
and explore it," Ware said.

Opioids have a limited role in successfully treating chronic pain
disorders, he added, noting there may be a more expanded role for
cannabinoid therapy to substitute for or potentially reduce opioid

The use of the powerful painkillers in Canada is second-highest in the
world after the U.S. on a per-capita basis.

B.C. chief provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall agrees
marijuana may offer a less dangerous alternative for people who are
struggling with chronic pain.

"If you've got a lot of people taking high-dose opioids by
prescription for a long period of time, if you start cutting them off,
you really need to have off ramp or alternative to offer them,"
Kendall said in an interview.

"The pain societies across the country say we don't have that yet ...
Cannabinoids ... may offer one alternative."

Health Minister Jane Philpott said legalizing cannabis and opioid use
are separate issues and the potential harms and benefits of marijuana
still need to be fully explored.

"Clearly Dr. Ware and many others are doing research in this area and
we certainly encourage further research to better understand the
realities," she said.

The Liberal government is looking to have a legalized regime for
recreational marijuana in place by July 2018 - a move that will make
Canada the first member of the G7 to legalize marijuana for
recreational use across the country.

It tabled legislation in April that will, once passed, establish a
"strict legal framework" for the production, sale, distribution and
possession of cannabis, making it against the law to sell marijuana to

The bill, which has now passed second reading in the House of Commons,
proposes allowing adults 18 and over to possess up to 30 grams of
dried cannabis or its equivalent in public, share up to 30 grams of
dried marijuana with other adults and buy cannabis or cannabis oil
from a provincially regulated retailer.
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