Recent scientific publications tell the whole story: “Medical marijuana is a popular way to manage chronic pain,” reads one title in a noted journal. There are some real steps being taken towards replacing opioid-based painkillers and street drugs with marijuana.

Here’s a rundown of the role of cannabis in the opioid crisis.

Cannabis has been used to control pain for many years. Recently, American and Canadian regulators have moved towards replacing pharmaceuticals with marijuana-based products. These will aid in the treatment of chronic pain. In one noteworthy case, the FDA in the United States has asked an American pharmaceutical company to withdraw one opioid-based painkiller. It’s the first time one of these drugs has been targeted and the FDA points to the fact the risks outweigh the benefits in their estimation.

While there are no FDA approved marijuana-based painkillers on the market as yet, many American companies including Biotechnologies Inc, Intec Pharma Ltd and Nemus Bioscience Inc have drugs in various stages of development.

The situation is basically the same here in Canada. Recent publications point to the fact that opioids kill one in four people a day in British Columbia and the situation has migrated to Toronto and other parts of the country.


Maclean’s magazine even recently called it the worst public health crisis since HIV in the 1980s. Canadian researchers, like their American counterparts, are looking into various compounds found in cannabis. These include THC and CBD. Research has shown that both of these compounds interact in the body and regulate pain.

A recent review from the University of British Columbia has found strong evidence that smoking or vaporizing marijuana can help alleviate noncancerous pain.

Turning Point

The real turning point came in 2014 with a landmark study. A team of American researchers looked at the numbers over a ten-year period and found that legalized medical marijuana corresponded to a drop of 25% in opioid-related deaths.

The numbers here in Canada reflect the positive implications from that survey. In fact, Health Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) conducted some research and found one-third of the patients in British Columbia substituted medical marijuana for opioids.

Next year, Canada will be the first in G-20 country to allow legal use of recreational marijuana. Legalizing the drug will allow for further sweeping research to be done on the medical implications including the role of cannabis in the opioid crisis.