Could Cannabis be an Alternative Opioid Substitution?

  • Could Cannabis be an Alternative Opioid Substitution?

In 2017, the Canadian government and the US Department of Health and Social Services announced a public health emergency. It was caused by an opiate crisis. Research has shown that therapeutic cannabis has the potential to reduce the prescription of opioid analgesics. Part of the population is at high risk of developing chronic pain and associated opioid-related disorders and subsequent opioid overdose.

Cannabis alone can relieve pain and, according to a new study, could become a substitute for opioids.

This study finally found the key to how cannabis produces important pain relief molecules that are 30 times stronger than Aspirin. This opens the door for us to create a naturally derived painkiller that does not have to build a dependency.

"Cannflavins" or flavonoids

Cannflavins A and B (known as flavonoids) were discovered in 1985, when scientists confirmed that they offer anti-inflammatory effects that were almost 30 times more effective than acetylsalicylic acid (sold as Aspirin or Acylpyrin).

Thanks to the combination of biochemistry and genomics, scientists have been able to find out how cannflavin A and cannflavin B are formed by cannflavin A.

Nevertheless, all research for decades has not moved, as all cannabis experiments have been regulated. Now that cannabis is legal in Canada and genomics research has advanced tremendously, cannflavins can be better explored.

Tariq Akhtar, professor of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, said, "Our intention was to better understand how these molecules are formed."

"It's exciting to be able to offer a new way of relieving pain, and we're proud that our discovery has the potential to become a new weapon of pain."

Opioid alternative

The US National Institute of Public Health reports that more than 130 people living in America die daily from an opioid overdose - including prescription drugs such as fentanyl.

In 2018, 4460 people died in Canada, whose death was linked to opioid use. People suffering from chronic pain sometimes need to take opioid analgesics, which work by blocking the receptors found in the brain, but thereby bringing risks in the form of dangerous side effects and dependence. In contrast, cannflavins fight pain by reducing inflammation. As a result, they have a high potential to become opioid substitutes.

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Photo Source: (by Julia Teichmann, Arek Statue)