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It’s becoming commonplace for supporters of the marijuana legalization movement to tout claims that marijuana helps with opioid addicts in recovery. New research by the Washington State University College of Nursing has found that rather than easing the addiction symptoms associated with opioid abuse, marijuana use actually seems to strengthen the relationship between pain, depression, and anxiety associated with opioid withdrawals.
Marian Wilson, head of the research, stated, “For people who are using cannabis the most [to treat opioid addiction], they have a very strong relationship between pain and mood symptoms, and that’s not necessarily the pattern you’d want to see … You would hope, if cannabis is helpful, the more they use it the fewer symptoms they’d see.” The study showed that those patients in an opioid treatment clinic that were using marijuana to help with pain, sleep, and mood were not receiving any benefits, and instead strengthening the pain, depression, and anxiety that they were experiencing as they used marijuana more frequently.
Wilson’s study did not look into why opioid-related deaths seem to be statistically lower in states with legal medical cannabis. Rather, the study focused solely on the relationship between pain, depression, and anxiety. While the study concluded that further research is needed before truly determining the effectiveness of marijuana for relieving distressing symptoms, it did seem to show that marijuana strengthens the connection between pain and emotional distress, making it harder for those in opioid treatment to manage their symptoms.