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.
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.”