NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Experts say there’s a surprising new weapon in the battle against the opioid addiction crisis: Medical marijuana.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to use one drug to battle addiction to another, some serious addiction experts think it may work, reports CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
“My bones are dying at the joints, suddenly my muscles began to tear. Thought it was just aging,” reports medical marijuana patient Scott Jordan.
It wasn’t aging, it was side effects of the HIV medications that kept Jordan alive and mostly healthy for 35 years.
When the pain of his orthopedic problems had him on massive doses of opioid pain killers, Jordan knew that was a path to tragedy.
“My mother committed suicide while ODing on opioids, my older brother did also,” he said.
His need to kick opioids eventually led him to Columbia Care, a medical marijuana dispensary in Manhattan where trained pharmacists work with patients to get the right product to treat their condition.
The site isn’t what most people think of when they hear marijuana, especially in New York that doesn’t allow smokeable medical marijuana.
“We’re very careful to make sure all of our product are characterized and are blended to always be the same product every time,” said Dr. Rosemary Mazanet of Columbia Care.
Mazanet, formerly an oncologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston, is the chief scientific officer for Columbia Care.
She says Columbia Care and Columbia University are collaborating on a federally funded study on the effects of medical marijuana on opioid use.
She points out that marijuana contains 500 different compounds and that depending on the condition. Medical cannabis may contain THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, as well as CBD, the legal cannabinoid component.
“THC-heavy versus CBD-heavy versus all these other smaller compounds you may never have heard of may be very important for the efficacy of the different disease states,” said Mazanet.
Experts also urge caution when using legal CBD compounds on the market. Two major medical journals found that many of the products did not contain the amount of CBD on the label and some even contained harmful contaminants.
A mix of THC and CBD in tablets is what helped Jordan.
“Thought I’d be stoned, but quite the opposite,” he said. “This stuff works, it really does. It’s changed my life.”
As medical experts works to insure more consistent use of the components from medical marijuana, full recreational use could be legal in the near future.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio both support legalizing recreational marijuana in New York, while New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy made legalization of marijuana a campaign promise during his run for office.