One drug could save people from another - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

One drug could save people from another

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VENICE, FL - Could marijuana be the answer to the rising heroin epidemic? 

Just days after the State of Washington was awarded $11 million to combat a growing opioid problem, research indicates one drug could help save people from another.

Federal law blocks most research into medical cannabis, but Dr. Barry Gordon with the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic of Venice says using cannabis to fight addition has been successful.

"Canadian studies, other countries have shown pretty clearly that cannabis therapy can assist in recovery from both alcohol and opiate addiction," Dr. Gordon said.

Dr. Gordon also says this works by stabilizing the endocannabinoid system in the body. 

"The organ system in the body that really mitigates a lot of the functions of pleasure in the body and things of that nature, so it's felt that sometimes replacing other more dangerous products with a very safe product like medical cannabis can be very helpful in recovery." 

Opioid and heroin addiction often starts with prescribed painkillers.

"Most of the patients coming to me have already been through their opioid issues," Dr. Gordon said. "Either they're still on them and want to get off them to a certain extent, half the dose, get rid of the totally, or quite frankly those people that manage to get off them never want to go back." 

Critics say addiction shouldn't be treated by providing another drug, but Dr. Gordon says things like Methadone and Suboxone are already being used.

"Cannabis on the other hand I think is safer in general than the Methadone and the Suboxone, and I think can be once again utilized as a kind of a replacement medication for patients to stop them from slipping back into the abyss of heavier opioid meds, alcohol as well. 

"Surely the expectation of being able to start somebody for a chronic pain type of process on medical cannabis is a fantastic expectation, and quite frankly we'll see if Florida allows us that chance or not." 

Of course, while more and more states are not only legalizing medical marijuana - but recreational use like we have here - federally, marijuana is still considered a controlled substance.

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