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Opioid Dependence & Role of Cannabis in Treatment

Opioid Dependence

Opioid abuse and overdose has spiked in the last five years. Opioid overdoses increased by 65% from 2012 to 2014. Recent figures show that the average number of fatal overdoses per year in the United States is around 33,000, but in 2016 a government report showed 64,000 deaths from drug overdose overall and more than 50% of those deaths were from opiates. A dramatic increase in fatal overdoses has caused many to find an alternative to opiates for pain relief and alternative treatment methods.

Opiate vs. Opioid: What Are They & What’s The Difference?

An opiate refers to the chemical compound taken from opium (opium poppy) while an opioid refers to the synthetic drugs derived from opiate compounds – for example, heroin is an opioid. However, the term “opioid” has been used to describe all opiate and opioid compounds in recent culture.

Opiate Compounds:
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Thebaine
  • Papaverine
  • Narcotine
  • Narceine


Opioid Dependence

An opioid dependence is created when the body becomes accustomed to the presence of opioid induced dopamine that it becomes desensitized to the effects of the drug. More drugs are needed to achieve the same effect which increases the risk of an overdose.

How We Become Opioid Dependent
  1. Opioids attach to receptors in the brain, spinal cord and gastrointestinal tract (gi tract).
  2. Body releases dopamine (responsible for pain relief)
  3. Long-term production or large quantities of dopamine produced in a short-term, makes the body accustomed to certain dopamine levels requiring individuals to increase their opioid dose to maintain these levels.

Opioids prevent the body from interpreting pain – you still have pain, but the drug disrupts the channel of communication that signal your brain to recognize the pain. The problem is that opioids take away your body’s ability to manage pain with nociceptors, the sensory receptor for painful stimuli.

Current Treatment: Opioid Withdrawal

The current acceptable treatment for opioid dependence to wean patients off of opiates while minimizing withdrawal in opiate abusing patients is Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT). The problem with this method is that Methadone is an opioid. This is equivalent to moving an alcoholic from liquor to beer. It doesn’t treat the addiction. Using another opioid to treat opioid addiction leaves a high risk of abuse in methadone treatment. The risk is mitigated through a required daily clinic visit to obtain the methadone. However, this increases the chance of relapse as patients lose motivation to travel to a clinic or low income patients with barriers to transportation abandon treatment all together.

Cannabis and Opioid Withdrawal: Why Natural Makes Sense

Cannabis has become a common course for treating the symptoms of withdrawal because of its quality as a natural analgesic, mood booster and anti-inflammatory agent. Cannabis is also a safe option because there is a zero risk of fatality. Why? It takes 40,000 times the normal amount of cannabinoids to be considered a fatal dose – making this risk “impossible”

Symptom Relief with Cannabis:
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms/shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Cramping
  • Goosebumps/ body chills
  • Intense sweating
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Severe aches and pains


Pain Management & Cannabis

The most common prescription for medical cannabis is for pain management. Many doctors and nurses are prescribing cannabis to help wean their patients off of opioids.

Cannabinoids prevent opiate tolerance build up that causes opioid dependence. This helps doctors wean patients by allowing them to take fewer opioids for pain. This eventually turns into a treatment that replaces opioids with cannabis or uses a combination of opioids and cannabis to manage pain. Always consult with a naturopathic doctor or holistic nurse to help navigate the proper treatment path for you.

Microdosing & CBD: Products That Eliminate Fear of Psychoactivity

Microdosing is beneficial in pain management treatment because it maintains a minimum dose of cannabis in your system that yields the maximum relief. This eliminates the “high” feeling that can induce anxiety in many patients. Likewise, CBD is the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that has pain relieving properties perfect for novice cannabis users or for patients that do not desire the “high” associated with high doses of THC.

Medicinal cannabis products like edibles or tinctures also make microdosing easier to manage as most of these products are pre-dosed or come with syringes to measure out precise dosage. Edible and tinctures produce longer lasting effects of the cannabis because they are metabolized differently than an inhaled cannabis product. Because both are ingested either sublingually or in the gi tract, these methods of consumption are inherently more bioavailable than smoking cannabis.

Microdosing Products Preferred by NDs
  • Myriam’s Hope
  • The CBD formula tinctures are easy to measure out and are made with high quality cannabis oil. Different formulas provide patients with high levels of CBD per ml dose. Formula A packs a 25 mg/ml punch while Formula B and C provide users with 50 mg/ml and 100 mg/ml respectively.

  • Veda Chews
  • The pre-dosed cannabis infused high CBD “medibles” are easy and convenient. The CBD formulas (gold 1:1 and silver 3:1) offer a non-psychoactive to minimally psychoactive effect with powerful and effective relief of pain, nausea, and inflammation.

Cannabis should be considered as a viable and effective way to deal with opioid addiction and withdrawal. Work with a trusted naturopathic doctor or homeopathic nurse who is trained in clinical cannabinoid medicine and/or chronic pain management with cannabis.

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HIV/AIDS and Cannabis – World AIDS Day 2017

World HIV/AIDS Day

Since 1988 December 1st has marked a pivotal day for our world community. World Aids Day is a day to wipe out the taboo, bring awareness to HIV/AIDS infection, remember those who lost their fight and to take responsibility for knowing our individual status.

Who is affected by HIV/AIDS?

This is NOT a gay issue or an issue with intravenous drug use – HIV does not discriminate – it is a human issue. Although gay and bisexual men remain the most affected, heterosexuals (especially women of color) are the second group most affected by the disease followed by people who inject drugs, and lastly gay men who inject drugs.

HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic, affecting approximately 37 million people worldwide. In the United States, over 1.1 million individuals are living with HIV/AIDS – of those living with HIV or AIDS 1 in 7 are unaware they have been infected. However, there is good news; from 2008 to 2014 there has been an 18% decline in new annual infections in the United States of HIV. How do we continue this decline? Opening up a non-judgmental dialogue frees individuals living with the disease from its stigma.

Cannabis and HIV/AIDS

Cannabis treatment for HIV/AIDS, much like for cancer, has been used to supplement conventional treatment and mitigate the symptoms of those treatments.

How cannabis Aides in HIV/AIDS Treatment
  • Eliminates nausea, vomiting and appetite loss from HIV/AIDS treatment
  • Restores weight and helps to maintain essential nutrients lost
  • Targets neuropathic pain induced by HIV/AIDS therapy.

Some studies have seen that cannabis effectively inhibits HIV and AIDS progression by suppressing pDC cells. Although the research is too early to claim a victory is HIV/AIDS treatment, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

“Living with HIV & How Cannabis Changed My Life”

Anonymous testimonial from a Green Nectar patient living with HIV

As a child I never asked for emotional support or help – I grew up as a child of adoptive services and subsequently grew up in and out of behavioral services. I always felt like I didn’t fit my settings. I grew up in San Diego is an area that was predominantly white and conservative.

I eventually, I ran away from home after coming out and being met with resistance over my sexual orientation. I ended up couch surfing, on the streets, into behavioral services, transitional living, etc. Within this time I was consumed by a lifestyle of unsafe sex and meth or opioid use, which eventually led me to test positive for HIV.

My newly discovered HIV status and a hard look at my life led me to change my life. I turned to cannabis to help with the opioid addiction and I had heard that it was an avenue for treatment for HIV/AIDS. It has provided me with a pathway away from opioid use and has allowed me to thrive despite my HIV status.

This should not be taken as medical advice. If you are considering using cannabis for HIV/AIDS symptom relief, please consult with your healthcare provider or find a cannabis doctor in your area. There is an end to HIV and AIDS. It starts with you.

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New Study Finds THC Kills Prostate Cancer Cells

prostate cancer blog - New Study Finds THC Kills Prostate Cancer Cells

Recent studies show that THC may play a powerful role in how we treat prostate cancer in the future. If you are asking yourself, “What can’t cannabis do?” Well, the results are in and THC kills cancer cells by inducing apoptosis in diseased cells.

Disclaimer: if you are battling cancer, this is not your cue to drop your current treatment in place of cannabis. Talk to your medical provider or find an ND that can help you tailor your treatment to include cannabis.

THC and How it Affects the Body

THC is the most commonly known cannabinoid found in marijuana and provides the mind and body with a broad spectrum of psychoactive and immuno-active effects.


Common effects of THC

Prostate Cancer - effects of THC













Some are fun, some make you unproductive, and other times they are lifesavers. Here is a short list of commonly reported effects of THC:

  • Coordination and movement altered
  • Short-term memory
  • Canna-giggles
  • Stabilizes mood and emotion
  • Balance in biochemistry
  • Sleep aid
  • Aphrodisiac


The Endocannabinoid System

THC works in the body by binding to receptors found in the endocannabinoid system. Many of these receptors are found in the brain and in the tissues outside the central nervous system. So far there have been two receptors that have been identified:

  • CB1 – modulates the brain and the reproductive organs
  • CB2 – affects immune tissues

Many ailments have been attributed to an endocannabinoid deficiency and supplementation of the system through cannabinoids from marijuana has been found to be an effective treatment of those ailments.

Cancer and THC

In recent studies, cannabinoids – THC & CBD – have been shown to induce apoptosis, or cell suicide, in diseased cells. More notably, causing cell death in cancer cells.


How We Know a Cell is Dying


cell death in prostate cancer


The biochemical signals that indicate cell death are not well known, but some consider ceramide as an important regulator of cell death.

  • Reduction in size of cell
  • Condensed chromatin (molecule that packs your DNA in the nucleus)
  • Redistribution of plasma
  • Changes in the surface of the cell
Prostate Cancer & Treatment with THC

Why does THC help fight prostate cancer, specifically? Although, cannabinoids are mainly produced or received in the brain, recent findings show that they are also produced in the testis. (remember, CB1 receptors modulate the brain and reproductive organ function.)

This finding led researchers to test how powerful of an ally THC can be in the fight against prostate cancer. They studied PC-3 (prostate cancer cells), their growth factors and how they react to THC in comparison to ceramide, a commonly attributed trigger to cell death.

The study tested different doses of THC on prostate cancer cells to see if there was a link between cell death in prostate cancer cells treated with THC. Researchers found THC caused a dramatic drop in the viability of the cells and cell death occurred after 2-3 days. The peak effect was observed at day 6 of treatment with the dosed THC.

Furthermore, the study found that the cell death induced by THC happened as a receptor-independent mechanism. So cannabinoids are now known to regulate cell death and growth independent of any other function in the body – not disrupting the normal function or mechanism of your biochemistry.

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Research Finds – 4 Ways Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells

Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells

Turns out cannabis is not only useful in mitigating the symptoms of chemotherapy, as it has been used to treat in the past, but cannabis kills cancer cells. How do we know? Studies and advancement in research on the effects cannabis has on cancer treatment has exploded in recent years. Because of the increased interest on cannabis as a cancer treatment, researchers have found that cannabis helps to kill cancer cells while remaining non-invasive and healing making it an ideal complement to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

It is important to note that cannabis is NOT considered a cure for cancer and not all cancers respond to cannabis and the cannabinoids it supplies to your body – course of action in terms of treatment should always be discussed with your medical professional.

4 Ways Cannabis Kills Cancer

Recent studies and preclinical evidence has led researchers to believe that there are four main ways that cannabis works to halt cancer growth and kill cancer cells when used as a supplementary treatment to conventional methods.

  1. Halted Proliferation
  2. Cancer cells proliferate when they divide and make new cancer cells causing tumors to grow; THC & CBD have been seen to stop cancer cell growth in ten types of cancer including:

    • Melanoma
    • Prostate
    • Breast
    • Lung
    • Colon


  3. Death by Starvation
  4. Tumors cannot grow if they cannot eat; cannabis is anti-angiogenic meaning it turns off the genes that allow tumors to develop blood vessels. No blood, no oxygen, no nutrients, no growth.

  5. Decreased Spread
  6. THC & CBD prevents metastasis in lab and rodent models leading to hope that it can help to prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body in cancer patients.

  7. Triggered Cell Death
  8. Cannabis kills cancer cells because THC & CBD tap into the body’s natural mechanism that decides if diseased cells will live or die. Deciding the latter means that the cell will undergo one of the following:

    • Triggers Apoptosis – cell suicide
    • Triggers Autophagy – autodigestion of cell

Research continues on cancer treatment and how cannabis kills cancer cells and it is important to understand that new findings are in preclinical settings and are in the early phases. However, the recent findings have shown a positive correlation between cannabis and cancer treatment giving hope to the medical community and cancer patients alike. Always talk to your doctor before incorporating cannabis into your cancer treatment plan. Find cannabis savvy medical resources to help guide you in deciding if cannabis is the right course of action for you.

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Breast Cancer and CBD: Cure on the Horizon?

Breast Cancer and CBD

A recent study by the Ohio State University Medical Center has shown promise and positive correlation between the treatment of breast cancer with the use of cannabis, specifically with doses of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD.

Cancer Cell Characterization: What We Know About Breast Cancer

Cell proliferation is one of the most important characterizations of cancer cells, how they survive and how tumor masses form. When there is a high concentration of stimuli from epidermal growth factor (EGF), cells will reconstruct themselves to become more sticky allowing them to migrate around the body. The signaling by EGF/EGFR in TNBC cells are important in creating the pathways that contribute to cancer cell survival, migration, cell growth and metastasis.

Breast cancer survival is limited in part because of metastasis and distant migration of cancer cells. Breast cancer cells exhibit high levels of NF-kB activation and overexpression of EGFR, the crucial component for cell growth and metastasis.

How CBD Helps Breast Cancer Patients

The study found that CBD significantly inhibited the proliferation of cancer cells induced by EGF. This means that CBD has the ability to inhibit tumor growth, metastasis, and modulate cancer microenvironment; all good news for advancement in treating aggressive, drug resistant breast cancer cells.

Treating Breast Cancer with CBD

It is important to note that chemotherapy is still the first line of defense in many cancer treatments. Cancer treatments vary by diagnosis and prognosis and should always be discussed with your oncologist.
Breast Cancer & CBD Treatment

Cannabinoids have been used for many years in cancer therapy. This is due, in large part, to its abilities to mitigate symptoms of conventional cancer therapy and treatment and its recent development as a potent complement to such treatments. Furthermore, the recent study on CBD and its ability to inhibit cancer cell growth and migration in TNBC breast cancer cells suggests that the cannabinoid has the potential to be used as an anti-tumor drug while remaining anti-invasive.

Apoptosis – Cell Death

The recent study out of the Ohio State University Medical Center has provided evidence that cannabinoids, such as CBD, can trigger apoptosis. What does this mean? Apoptosis is essentially cell suicide. Your body already has this mechanism in place, but cancer overpowers the system and does not allow your body to effectively fight back. Cannabinoids trigger your body’s mechanism to target the bad cells and cell death of these diseased cells follows.


Chemotherapy Symptom Mitigation
  • Modulate pain
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cell growth inhibition
  • Apoptotic effects


What Does This Mean for Cancer Patients?

Cannabis helps reduce painful symptoms associated with conventional cancer treatment while supplementing the body’s healing process. Because bad cells along with good cells are attacked during chemotherapy the most powerful source of healing is through sleep. Cannabis aids in sleep and restoration of good cells while inhibiting the growth of bad cells.

As stated before, always consult your healthcare provider before changing the course of any medical treatment. All treatments are unique to individuals as well as reactions and tolerance to cannabis.

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