Medical Marijuana Now Legally Prescribed Instead of Opioids to Treat Pain in Colorado September 16th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Medical Marijuana Now Legally Prescribed Instead of Opioids to Treat Pain in Colorado

Medical Marijuana Now Legally Prescribed Instead of Opioids to Treat Pain in Colorado

A doctor leaves marijuana on a prescription form for pain

A new bill in Colorado now allows physicians to prescribe medical marijuana for pain management as an alternative to opioids. This bill also changes the laws for who can prescribe medical marijuana to people under 18 years of age, allowing the drug to be prescribed outside of a debilitating condition. People who suffer from acute pain after surgery are the people the bill primarily focuses on. When someone is assessed as a risk or as having opioid use disorder, doctors may now use marijuana as a treatment for their pain. This new ruling by Colorado may prove to be a national model; it has already been enacted by Illinois and New York.

Medical Marijuana for Pain Legal in Several States

Medical marijuana in Illinois has undergone scrutiny during a pilot program in which the drug was used as an alternative to opioids. The program states that opioid deaths increased by 13% between 2016 and 2017 in Illinois. The goal of finding alternatives is to decrease death from opioid overdose. As of July 31, 2019, 2,165 qualifying individuals and 508 physicians were enrolled in Illinois’ Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

As for eligibility, people in the program must meet the minimum age requirement of 21 years old to legally purchase marijuana and are free to purchase 2.5 ounces of cannabis every two weeks.

Medical marijuana in New York is available as an opioid replacement. Opioid use disorder is a condition that qualifies someone for this treatment. Licensed doctors, physicians assistants and nurse practitioners can write provide patient certifications for medical marijuana. Acute pain has to be specifically defined to include the nature of the injury or surgery that requires pain management. Patients have to register with the New York Department of Health and receive a registration identification in order to buy medical marijuana.

Colorado was one of the first two states to legalize medical marijuana. Colorado medical marijuana laws provide regulations for dispensaries and guidelines for use. This new bill extends use to include medical marijuana as a viable opioid replacement.

Doctors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada have the option to offer the use of medical marijuana to people who have opioid use disorder.

Medical Marijuana Not an Opiate Addiction Cure

Use this area to discuss the controversy between those who believe medical marijuana can stop opioid addiction and the fact that the article states that medical marijuana use is not being condoned as a cure to stem opioid dependence, but rather as an alternative to being prescribed opioids in the first place.

Opioids are powerful narcotics that can provide significant pain relief. However, they are also highly addictive. Medical marijuana pain relief may be an alternative. Marijuana and pain medication has been researched for at least two decades. Marijuana based pain medication may be effective for certain conditions, including:

  • Migraines
  • Cancer treatment pain
  • AIDS treatment pain
  • Spastic movement disorders

Cannibanoids have been used to address muscle pain, optic pain and other varieties of acute and chronic pain.

Pros and Cons of Medical Marijuana vs Opiates for Pain

Medical marijuana vs opiates for pain is a debate that has fueled important research. There are a variety of opinions and even studies that provide conflicting information about whether marijuana use decreases opioid abuse. Some experts believe that any alternative to opioids is a good choice because marijuana may not be as addictive as opioids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse contends that, in 2015, four million people in the United States met the criteria for marijuana use disorder.

Medical marijuana and pain management may be successful for some people. Does medical marijuana relieve pain? Medical marijuana has been shown to alleviate pain. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains that cannabis has been used for 3,000 years to treat many health conditions. Marijuana derivatives and solutions are currently available to treat people who are in chemotherapy treatment for cancer and loss of appetite for people in treatment for AIDS. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report that there is evidence that medical marijuana can relieve pain. In a 2017 report, researchers state that 94% of people in Colorado cite pain as the reason they need the drug.

Opioids are a controlled substance, which means they are subject to strict regulations both in manufacturing and distribution. Marijuana is not included in the same level of regulation. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved one form of CBD oil for medical use in treating a form of epilepsy. A lack of regulatory standards could make marijuana use unpredictable or even dangerous.

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

Signs of marijuana addiction include an inability to not take the drug and taking the drug more often than you want to. If marijuana use inhibits daily life, it may be a source of addiction. Opioid abuse can lead to overdose and death, which may mean that marijuana addiction symptoms are not as life-threatening as opioids, making it a favorable alternative.

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers a full range of care and addiction recovery programs. It is important to get help to overcome drug addiction. Long-term recovery can be achieved through detox, rehab and sober support.



Colorado General Assembly. “SB19-013 Medical Marijuana Condition Opiates Prescribed For.” 2019. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “The Controlled Substances Act.” N.D. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Illinois Department of Public Health. “Opioid Alternative Pilot Program.” N.D. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Illinois Government. “Medical Cannabis Pilot Program OAPP Update.” August 7, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Mack, A. et al. “Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy.” National Academies Press, 2000. Accessed August 25, 2019.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Marijuana and Cannabinoids.” October 25, 2018. Accessed August 25, 2019.

National Conference of State Legislatures. “State Medical Marijuana Laws.” June 2, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is marijuana addictive?” July 2019. Accessed August 25, 2019.

New York Department of Health. “New York State Medical Marijuana Program.” Revised August 2019. Accessed August 25, 2019.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.” July 17, 2019. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.