Marijuana May Worsen Mental Illness Symptoms in Opioid Addiction Patients, says Study
Now that marijuana is legal in several states, some addiction treatment centers have been using marijuana to help curb pain, depression, and anxiety among patients who suffer from opioid use disorder. But new evidence shows that marijuana may not complement opioid addiction treatment at all, and may even worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Here’s a closer look at the recent study, along with safe, alternative pain treatments that may offer relief for those who also suffer from opioid addiction.
Marijuana May Not Help with Opioid Addiction
As the U.S. opioid epidemic rages on, researchers continue looking for safe, effective ways to help Americans fight opioid addiction. Advocates for marijuana say this drug works as an effective pain reliever that carries a low risk for physical dependence, and that the drug can help relieve anxiety and depression. But a new study conducted by nurses at Washington State University College of Nursing found that marijuana may not be the best solution for opioid addiction.
The study examined marijuana use among 150 patients recovering from opioid addiction at nearby addiction treatment centers. Roughly 67 percent of patients admitted to using marijuana within the past 30 days to relieve pain, and to improve their moods and sleeping patterns. However, the study leaders found that patients experiencing severe pain had worsened symptoms of depression and anxiety on days they used marijuana.
While marijuana may carry a low risk for physical dependence, this substance is still addictive, and can lead to serious problems with one’s career, education, finances, relationships, and overall livelihood. Patients who cannot benefit from marijuana therapeutically may require additional treatments for pain and mental health disorders.
Treatments for Co-Occurring Disorders
The presence of mental health disorders and addiction are known as co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis. Past studies have shown that roughly 50 percent of people who suffer from drug use disorders also suffer from co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Marian Wilson, the leader of the WSU College of Nursing study, says that opioid patients who suffer depression and anxiety may use marijuana in an effort to mask their symptoms. While marijuana may offer temporary relief for these mental health disorders, therapy is often needed to help patients address the root causes of their addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and support groups are therapies commonly offered at drug detox centers to treat co-occurring disorders.
Alternative Treatments for Pain in Opioid Addiction Patients
Nearly two-thirds of opioid addiction patients also suffer from chronic pain in addition to mental health disorders. Opioids are highly addictive and can lead to dependence in patients who use these drugs to treat chronic pain for longer than two weeks. Fortunately, there are a number of alternative treatments proven effective at relieving chronic pain that carry little to no risk for addiction.
Complementary treatments for chronic pain:
- Massage therapy
- Nutritional supplementation
- Spinal manipulation
- Relaxation therapy
- Music therapy
If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic pain and opioid addiction, understand that drug detox centers can help pave the way to improved overall health for you or your loved one. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193 to speak with an experienced drug abuse counselor about detox centers that treat opioid addiction and co-occurring disorders.