Doctor: Pot likely better than opioid pills for pain relief

BRENTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Every day in the United States, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed. Federal statistics indicate the opioid epidemic continues to skyrocket.

But one local doctor suggests prescribing pot for pain relief may be better for those looking to reduce their dependence on medications.

Chronic back pain has plagued Lorin Pullman since her 20s. Opioid medications such as Vicodin used to be her go-to for pain relief.

"I have taken every pain pill imaginable. Every anti-inflammatory.," said Pullman. "I have found at this point in my life, medical marijuana is the best place to go."

Pullman said cannabis edibles have helped her wean herself off opioids with occasional use.

"I think with marijuana it is much more different effect. It can help the pain level go down from a 10 to a 5," said Pullman.

Internal medicine specialist Dr. Damon Raskin said numerous studies show marijuana can be effective for managing chronic pain in certain patients. As medical director at the Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center, he believes doctors need more alternatives to opioids.

"In those states that have legalized marijuana, there are 25 percent fewer deaths from opiate overdoses and that says a lot," said Raskin.

"I agree that substituting marijuana for opiates in not a perfect answer but nobody dies from marijuana overdoses," Raskin continued. "People are dying form opiate overdoses every day."

But a challenge for using cannabis to treat patients comes in the lack of standardization for medical marijuana. Raskin hopes legalization leads to more regulatory control.

Besides taking fewer opioids, Pullman has also stopped taking sleep meds.

"For me, medical marijuana has been a really good thing for many reasons," Pullman said. She says she feels more control over her pain and her life.
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