Opioid Withdrawal Treatment: Finding New Roads

Opioids/opiates have provided significant and sometimes life-saving relief to countless patients. They remain some of the strongest painkillers available and can be especially helpful in rendering comfort in otherwise extremely painful terminal illnesses. Opioids work by activating opioid receptors located in the brain, which are densely located in emotion-controlling areas that process pain. Unfortunately, prolonged or extreme use of opioids can lead to dependence, or the body adjusting by limiting natural opioid production and therefore resulting in the body physiologically needing increasing amounts of external opioids to function properly. However, aside from practical issues, high doses of opioids can lead to respiratory failure, death, and other serious health consequences, which means that for all but terminally ill users, opioid withdrawal will eventually occur. Withdrawal is not only unpleasant physically and psychologically (depression, lack of appetite, diarrhea), but potentially life-threatening. In fact, withdrawal is so severe that it can sometimes prevent patients from ending opiate use, causing a downward spiral. As a result, modern doctors are cautious to prescribe opioids and usually seek to wean patients off opioids through slowly decreasing prescriptions. Perhaps more concerning though, aside from medical patients, roughly 4.3 million people in the US alone are currently non-medical users of narcotic pain relievers. Drugs like heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc. are all opiate-based drugs that are frequently abused for the recreational high. Meanwhile, even drugs intended to wean opiate use, such as buprenorphine, are commonly sold and traded. To date, only compounds that directly activate opioid receptors have been…

Vaping To Relieve Pain, Does It Really Work?

One of the most popular recurring topics on the Cornerstone blog is pain management, and for good reason; currently available pain treatment options may go a long way toward reducing pain, but most individuals with chronic pain still report unmet treatment needs. One relevant issue is that multiple sources contribute to pain, and therefore, a single “magic bullet” pain medication does not exist that is capable of treating all sources. As medical science advances, part of researchers’ collective job is elucidating what other pain treatments might be effective and worth adding to the rotation of commonly used painkillers. As readers know, researchers have identified both THC and CBD as potential pain treatments, with CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects making it an especially good candidate for pain stemming from inflammation (such as in arthritis). Cannabinoids such as CBD represent a great treatment option because abuse potential is relatively non-existent. Opiate-based medicines on the other hand, such as morphine, must be carefully controlled. Doctors are frequently put in the position of evaluating a patient’s pain and choosing whether to prescribe opiates or to withhold that medication to prevent abuse, addiction, and drug trading. That decision can be difficult, and the more non-abusable drugs in a doctor’s arsenal, the more likely pain will be treated effectively. Lately, as medical research delves deeper into the world of cannabinoids and the body’s own endocannabinoid system, the emerging consensus is that new cannabinoids could be created that are even more effective at reducing pain than cannabis itself. For…

Debunking Reefer Madness “Science”

Most of the Cornerstone blog articles we post are about the future and pending medical advances. However, today, we will instead take a quick look at the present, specifically at the national conversation around medical cannabis. As more states continue to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, the bulk of conversation centers on how to navigate this collective policy change to produce the greatest good and smallest harm for society as a whole. However, while 2016 has certainly been an outstanding year for medical cannabis and cannabinoid research, reefer madness is still alive and well, and opposition remains strong. For exhibit A, the report that is setting the internet abuzz, the University of Western Australia published a press release linking cannabis use to gene mutation. To quote the article: “‘Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA,’ Associate Professor Stuart Reece said.” As if this isn’t scary enough, the article then suggests that these mutations are passed to offspring. Yikes. Following this line of thought, by consuming cannabis, individuals may inadvertently be giving their children cancer! Fortunately, cannabis science luminary Ethan Russo stepped in to clarify and debunk the report. In an interview for the East Bay Express, Ethan noted, “This report is based on a foundation of falsehoods. Cannabis is not mutagenic (productive of mutations in DNA)…Countless animal studies and human epidemiological studies support its relative safety in this regard.” Despite…