Mixture of tablets on table - carl esprey

Could Medicinal Cannabis End the Opioid Crisis?

There is a global opioid crisis, and thankfully, many countries are now attempting to improve this dire situation. Outside the US and UK, countries like Portugal, Norway, Estonia and Sweden are also trying to fight opioid overuse and addiction. We ask, could medicinal cannabis end the opioid crisis?

In UK trials, over 85% of patients reported they found medicinal cannabis more effective in treating their pain than opioids and other medication, suggesting medicinal cannabis could help resolve the global opioid crisis.

Chronic pain affects millions of people globally every year.  Covid-19 has left some people with musculoskeletal pain after contracting the virus and those already living with chronic pain are suffering from more significant pain due to long-Covid.

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), “Chronic pain affects between one-third and one-half of the population of the UK, corresponding to just under 28 million adults, based on data from the best available published studies. This figure is likely to increase further in line with an ageing population.”

America Has Further to Go

“It’s definitely a big step in the right direction because the industry is moving much faster than we are in research,” says Michael McDonell, an associate professor of medicine and director of the university’s cannabis center. UCSD’s Grant says the biggest leap forward for research would come from moving cannabis out of the Schedule 1 drug classification. “If that were to happen,” he says, “that would solve a lot of these problems that we’ve been talking about.”

Since the 1990s, physicians have been prescribing opioids to help control pain. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive, leading to people becoming addicted, taking them frequently and tragically overdose! Even the UN is looking into the global opioid crisis and considering how to solve the issues. Medicinal cannabis could be the answer.

Could Medicinal Cannabis End the Opioid Crisis?

Research is underway to determine how effective medical cannabis is in helping to treat different medical conditions, specifically conditions that cause chronic pain or limit the quality of life.

An active study by Project Twenty21 and Drug Science is working with patients who have specific conditions and prescribing medicinal cannabis. The project aims to create the UK’s largest body of evidence for the NHS to allocate more funding for prescriptions for those who need it.

Preliminary findings show that medical cannabis has helped improve the quality of life by over 50% for those on the trials.

“There is little or no evidence that [commonly prescribed drugs, such as benzodiazepines or opioids] make any difference to people’s quality of life, pain or psychological distress, but they can cause harm, including possible addiction” – National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Cannabis medication was made legal in the UK in November 2018 for conditions such as epilepsy and MS. It can only be prescribed by those on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council. GP’s must refer to specialists for medicinal cannabis to be prescribed to their patients.

Medicinal Cannabis Replacing Opioids

Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries until recent years. The cannabis plant contains cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); both appear to provide therapeutic benefits.

THC provides the “high” associated with the cannabis plant. Tests have shown that a combination of THC and CBD in small amounts can help treat the symptoms of specific medical conditions and be helpful in others on their own. CBD appears to be well tolerated with few side effects.

Could medicinal cannabis end the opioid crisis? For the sake of so many lives, we hope it does.


Carl Esprey is the founder and CEO of Botanical Holdings. Botanical Holdings is an investment company for the legalised cannabis sector. His portfolio includes Portugal-based Eurocan, which aims to become a world leader in producing cannabis products for medicinal use.