By Drew Bollea

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Searching for a way to ease the pain, some people in California with chronic illnesses are turning to marijuana products instead of opioids. It’s a trend that advocates say may be a way to cut into the nations opioid epidemic.

“I would be in the doctor’s waiting room crying in pain,” said Triscka Mallia.

She was prescribed powerful pills to treat her back pain.

“I was on about eight Vicodin a day,” said Mallia.

While she got some relief, the side effects were too great to handle.

“I had drug tremors. I had the sweats,” explained Mallia, “I don’t think I was any different than a heroin addict.”

It was a similar situation for this man who didn’t want to be identified. He was diagnosed with cancer, and prescribed pain pills.

“I like to call it zombie mode,” he said, describing the feeling while on opioids, “you’re kind of just walking around in a haze.”

“One of the top reasons patients are using cannabis is to reduce their use of other pharmaceuticals including opioids,” said Kimberly Cargile.

She runs a holistic dispensary in Sacramento.

[graphiq id=”hctWUQTzB77″ title=”Fatal Overdoses on Opioids in the United States Over Time” width=”600″ height=”567″ url=”″ frozen=”true”]

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found opioid overdose deaths are down as much as 25% in states like California with legal medical marijuana.

“I’m golden. I’m very very happy and I sleep like a baby,” said Mallia, talking about her experience since switching to cannabis products.

But not everyone is sold on cannabis as a cure to the opioid epidemic. Several medical associations have come out against legalization including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has described marijuana as “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if can just have more marijuana,” said Sessions.

Cannabis product creators including Carter Lash, who make oils, creams and candles, disagree and say the impact on patients is impossible to ignore.

“Patients are getting sick of taking opiates and taking things that are getting them sick,” said Lash.

They’re holding out for a cannabis cure.

“It’s literally like a new form of life.”

  1. In regard to opioids, the use of cannabis in managing pain is one of the most important.

    4 out of 5 heroin users begin with prescription opioids [Lankenau et al. 2012]. The reason is very simple, heroin and opioids such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), are very similar drugs. When prescriptions run out, people turn to far less expensive, more available, more potent heroin from the street to support their habit.

    Removing cannabis from our pharmacopeia 7 decades ago may have resulted in thousands of opioid deaths:

    “From a pharmacological perspective, cannabinoids are considerably safer than opioids and have broad applicability in palliative care. Had cannabis not been removed from our pharmacopeia 7 decades ago and remained available to treat chronic pain, potentially thousands of lives that have been lost to opioid toxicity could have been prevented.”
    “The medicinal cannabis user should not be considered a criminal in any state and the DEA and our legal system should be using science and logic as the basis of policy making rather than political or societal bias.” [Carter et al. 2011]

    Legal medical cannabis has been shown to significantly reduce deaths from prescription opioid painkillers by reducing opioid use:

    “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” [Bachhuber et al. 2014]

    Two of the main reasons people switch to cannabis: less side-effects and less withdrawal:

    “Over 41% state that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 36.1% use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances, and 67.8% use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs. The three main reasons cited for cannabis-related substitution are ‘less withdrawal’ (67.7%), ‘fewer side-effects’ (60.4%), and ‘better symptom management’ suggesting that many patients may have already identified cannabis as an effective and potentially safer adjunct or alternative to their prescription drug regimen.” [Lucas et al. 2013]

    Denying people medicine like this should be a criminal act, instead using it is. What a bizarre situation politicians have created.

    -Bachhuber et al. Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA Intern Med. 2014
    -Carter et al. Cannabis in palliative medicine: improving care and reducing opioid-related morbidity. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2011
    -Lankenau et al. Initiation into prescription opioid misuse amongst young injection drug users. Int J Drug Policy. 2012
    -Lucas et al. Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients. Addiction Research & Theory. 2013

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