CANNAHEALTH The Opioid Epidemic - Page 21

When individuals use prescription opioids, once taken they are absorbed into our blood vessels. Once the opioids reach the brain, transporters help them travel to their target cells where they bind to specific receptors. That binding leads to pain relief and other positive feelings.

As time passes there is more and more opiates bound to these receptors. After a few weeks, a process of tolerance occurs as the opioid receptors begin to lower the signal and decrease receptor binding to where it was before opiates were used. While the opiates are in the blood, they are not acting like they had originally acted when they were started; soon they are no longer affecting the brain as they had originally. This ultimately means that for the exact same dose of opiates used at the start of the treatment program there is eventually less of an effect, the patients ultimately perceives this as needing more pain medication to create the exact same ability to relieve their pain. When this happens the patient is now said to have reach a place of tolerance. Because he is no longer getting optimal pain relief he then begins the abuse process by increasing, on his own the dosage of his medication, and at this point the addiction process is set in motion.

Two things now happen almost simultaneously: 1) the patient increases his daily dosage of opiates, and 2) he starts developing an intense need for more opiates both to manage his pain as well as make him feel better. This process can in some individual lead to eventually taking an overdose wherein they either survive, sometimes only with the help of paramedics, an emergency room and skilled doctors, or, if these are not available, they die

With the recognition of the value of medical cannabis many medical practitioners and patients are now choosing to go to rehabilitation, get entirely off opiates, and then either, in many cases, use another prescription pain medication, which are generally is not quite as effective as the opiates were, or they are started on medical cannabis .