Quick hit: THC Makes Oxycodone Safer

Some recent highlights and curiosities from the amazing world of cannabis science and therapeutics.
By Adrian Devitt-Lee On May 08, 2019

Many prohibitionist arguments are being flipped on their heads. CBD’s anti-anxiety effects have replaced much of the reefer madness mentality. Rather than causing lung cancer, marijuana appears to have anti-cancer activity, if anything. And in spite of the gateway theory, whereby casual cannabis use supposedly escalates to heroin, we find that cannabis helps to treat pain and reduce opiate use. An animal study out of the Scripps Research Institute reaffirms that THC generally reduces the addictiveness of opioids. In simple words, when animals (including humans) are given THC, they have less interest in seeking opioids, alcohol, and other drugs. They respond less intensely to cues or triggers that remind them of past addictions. Although everyone has a unique response to cannabinoids, this is the average effect.

The recent Scripps study looked specifically at self-administration, which is the gold standard animal model in addiction research. Not only were the rats uninterested in oxycodone after getting THC, but THC potentiated the painkilling effect. So while THC made oxycodone less addictive, it also made it a more effective pain treatment. Oxycodone is one of the opiates most responsible for modern opioid addiction.

Preclinical work is only a first step in medicine, and before we jump to conclusions let’s not overlook animal studies where THC potentiates opioids’ addictivness or cannabinoids interfere with the painkilling. But the beneficial effects are seen in human research. People using cannabis are much more likely to decrease or stop opioid use (different surveys suggest that between 30-60% of opioid-users are able to entirely switch to cannabis)

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Adrian Devitt-Lee, Project CBD's chief science writer, is employed as a research chemist by the University College of London.