ON OPIATES VS CANNABINOIDS 2017-04-18T12:33:16+00:00


  • Opioids – are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin as well as powerful pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain to alter the perception of pain. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids
  • Opiate receptors targeted by pharmaceutical opioids are located in the brain regions that control breathing – the reason for death during opioid overdose. Cannabinoid receptors are instead located in the nearby area of the brain that positively controls nausea and vomiting, but are not expressed in the breathing centers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). MWR.Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
  • 73.8% of all prescription overdose deaths were due to opioid pain relievers (OPR) (a study published by the CDC). OPR sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010 and cost health insurers 72.4 billion annually in health care costs (CDC 2011).
  • Over 52% of retired NFL football players interviewed reported using prescription opioids (Cottler, 2011).
  • Cannabinoids target CB and TRPV1 receptors – unlike opioids, cannabinoids regulate perception of pain via CB1 and TRPV1 receptors. TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid 1) receptor regulates pain in the sensory nerve endings.
  • 10x more effective – cannabis was shown to be 10 time more effective at treating nerve pain than morphine.
  • Addiction – compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences. Characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal [2].
  • Physical dependence – when the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). Physical dependence is often the precursor to addiction, but it does not necessarily indicate addiction [2].


1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids


3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). Vital signs: Overdoses of prescription opioid pain relievers—united states, 1999–2008. MMWR.Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 60(43), 1487-1492.

Cottler, L. B., Abdallah, A. B., Cummings, S. M., Barr, J., Banks, R., & Forchheimer, R. (2011). Injury, pain, and prescription opioid use among former national football league (NFL) players*. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 116(1-3), 188-194.

4. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1898878

5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/
Abrams, D.I., et al., Cannabinoid-opioid interaction in chronic pain. Clin Pharmacol Ther, 2011. 90(6): p. 844-51.

Deng, L., et al., Chronic cannabinoid receptor 2 activation reverses paclitaxel neuropathy without tolerance or cannabinoid receptor 1-dependent withdrawal. Biol Psychiatry, 2015. 77(5): p. 475-87.

Harris, H.M., et al., Effects of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol on Cisplatin-Induced Neuropathy in Mice. Planta Med, 2016. 82(13): p. 1169-72.

Ko, G.D., et al., Medical cannabis – the Canadian perspective. J Pain Res, 2016. 9: p. 735-744.

Siuda, E.R., et al., Biased mu-opioid receptor ligands: a promising new generation of pain therapeutics. Curr Opin Pharmacol, 2016. 32: p. 77-84.

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