We live in a bizarre world. Take politics for example: People routinely vote against their best interests. Perhaps it is a subconscious desire to belong to a group, rather than being involved with a group that actually achieves something. This may explain why a slight majority of British people voted to leave the European Union, even though it will hurt them economically in the long-term.
Then we have low-income Trump supporters who continue to stand by their man, even though his Republican party has passed legislation to provide the super wealthy with tax cuts while looking to take an axe to the healthcare and benefits systems.
We have a similar situation with marijuana and morphine. If you were to focus solely on how each drug is perceived by a majority of politicians, you would assume that weed was deadly while morphine was effective and relatively harmless. But as we’ll explain later, the opposite is the case. First of all, let’s provide a brief overview of how the law works concerning both forms of medication.
In India, they seem to be stricken with the same disease attributable to American politicians such as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions – selective blindness. While Maneka Gandhi, the Minister for Women and Child Development, recommended legalizing weed for medicinal purposes in India, doctors working in palliative care say they want patients to have access to more morphine rather than weed.
In India, only three of the six opioid drugs doctors are allowed to prescribe are available; morphine, fentanyl, and methadone. There is also a belief that morphine is not easy enough to access, and too few palliative care patients don’t have the option. Alas, it is clear that in India, as is the case in the United States, physicians don’t know enough about cannabis as a medical treatment.
Fortunately, there appears to be a modicum of sense coming from the U.S. at least. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a list of guidelines in 2016 which recommended reducing the number of opioids given to patients to manage pain. Physicians are finally becoming concerned by the specter of opioid misuse and addiction.
A number of states have also introduced laws to combat the rising number of opioid addicts. Although there are exceptions made for terminally ill patients, states such as Washington and New Jersey have a daily supply limit for drugs such as morphine. In Colorado, there was a reduction in opioid related deaths of 0.3 per 100,000 people in a single year when the state introduced limits on opioid use in hospitals.
Meanwhile, marijuana is moving in the opposite direction, with 30 states plus D.C. now allowing weed for medicinal use. The main issue right now is that a significant majority of medical staff are still in the dark regarding how cannabis should be used as medicine. This lack of knowledge means patients can often be refused weed. Remember, the herb is still federally illegal, so hospitals have no obligation to provide you with cannabis on demand.
How Does Marijuana Differ from Morphine?
Before we go any further, it is important to note that both drugs have something in common: They are both used as painkillers. Marijuana contains cannabinoids such as THC and CBD which have an impact on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is now believed that weed stimulates the CB1 and CB2 receptors which are found all over the body and brain. Cannabinoids could work to keep your system in balance; also known as a state of homeostasis.
Opioids work on the opioid receptors in our brain to keep us motivated and energized. Users of marijuana report the same feelings. The main differences between weed and an opioid such as morphine are the potential for addiction and the risks associated with an overdose.
When you use morphine regularly, it decreases the number of opioid receptors, and our brain stops producing its own opioids. Eventually, opioid users suffer from reduced motivation and happiness. Opioid users are also twice as likely to suffer from depression as non-users. Ultimately, life as an opioid user revolves around the use of the drug. As most physicians don’t have more than 10 minutes with a patient, it is easy to prescribe an opioid rather than list the reasons why the users shouldn’t try it.
The United States is finally coming to terms with the fact that there is a real opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. This figure accounts for 66% of all drug overdoses. 40% of all overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
In contrast, there has yet to be a case of a marijuana overdose in recorded history. Excess consumption of weed can cause hallucinations, paranoia, or anxiety, which could cause an individual to act in a dangerous manner. However, instances of this occurring are relatively few and far between.
Addiction to Opioids
One of the major problems with opioids such as morphine is that they don’t do a great deal to handle the cause of the pain. When morphine is prescribed for pain, it has a tremendous calming effect, but it is better for preventing PTSD because it stops memories from becoming embedded into the consciousness. Once a person already has PTSD, morphine does little other than provide a sedative effect for a short period.
A bigger issue with opioids is that the initial pain ‘relief’ and sense of calm wears off relatively quickly. It doesn’t take long to develop a tolerance where users need more to attain the same effect as before. In one Australian survey, an incredible 38% of people who injected themselves with morphine admitted to having an addiction to the drug.
Once you have a morphine addiction, symptoms such as sleep apnea, circulation issues, itchy skin, and breathing difficulties take hold. As the intensity of the addiction grows, users begin faking illness just to get further drugs. They become isolated from friends and family and lose interest in maintaining a decent standard of personal hygiene.
Eventually, users get to the stage where they are using enough morphine to kill them. If you overdose on an opioid, breathing becomes restricted and emergency signals to increase breathing are unsent. Frothy fluid appears around the nose and mouth, while fluid builds up in the lungs. The diaphragm and other muscles may seize up (this happens a lot with fentanyl), and your throat’s gag reflex is suppressed. If sedated or groggy, it is possible to choke on your own vomit.
Although marijuana can also be addictive, no more than 9% of regular users become addicts; less than a quarter the addiction rate of morphine. If you consume too much marijuana, side effects include accelerated heart rate, panic, paranoia, and nausea. While tolerance does increase over time, it is possible to decrease it again by abstaining from weed for a while. You may experience withdrawal symptoms, but they are nowhere near as severe as those associated with opioids.
Final Thoughts on Medical Marijuana Versus Morphine
It would be irresponsible for us say that medical marijuana is a completely ‘safe’ drug. Everyone reacts differently to its effects, and it could cause psychosis, anxiety, and depression in certain individuals. There is about a 1-in-11 chance of becoming an addict, but aside from performing a dangerous action while high, there is no chance of actually ‘overdosing’ to the stage where cannabis toxicity alone kills you.
With morphine, there is a high risk of addiction and the pain relief you feel is only temporary. Soon, you need a lot more morphine to feel better, and addiction is just around the corner. Once this happens, your chances of dying from an overdose increase significantly. Even if you survive for any length of time, your entire life will revolve around the pursuit of the drug. In reality, it is truly baffling that marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance when morphine is so widely available.