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The opioid crisis is in full swing across Canada, and many are looking for a way to curb it. Medical cannabis has been suggested as one potential solution, especially as more research supports cannabis as an effective painkiller. Some studies suggest those using opioid medications can even reduce or eliminate their dependence on these substances by introducing medical marijuana to their treatment plans.

Download "How Medical Cannabis Can Counter the Opioid Crisis in Canada" e-book

Many people have questions about both medical cannabis and opioid use in Canada. How many people are using opioids, and how serious is the crisis? By contrast, how many medical marijuana patients are there in the country? These four statistics should help shed light on the situation.


1. More than 200,000 People Use Medical Cannabis

In 2017, the number of medical cannabis patients in Canada topped 200,000 for the first time. The number of authorizations grew exponentially in 2016, and authorizations continued apace in 2017.

There are a few reasons for the expanding patient population. First, there is more research than ever before, much of it suggesting medical marijuana can assist people with managing a number of different health conditions. The increasing number of conditions that can be treated and higher-quality data are encouraging medical professionals to seriously consider medical cannabis for their patients.

Another factor is the opioid crisis, which has many patients and doctors looking for alternatives. Thus far, medical marijuana is one of the best alternatives to opioids.


2. The Number of Opioid Prescriptions Is Increasing

Unfortunately, in 2016, more than 21 million prescriptions were also issued for opioid drugs. Given there are roughly 36 million people in Canada, that’s almost equivalent to one prescription for two of every three Canadians.


3. The Number of Opioids Dispensed Is Dropping

The good news is the number of opioid medications actually being dispensed is in decline. Although the number of prescriptions increased, Canadians are getting fewer opioids per prescription.

This is one sign of the effort to curb the opioid crisis in Canada, although it is still worrisome that the number of prescriptions has increased.


4. The Opioid Crisis Claimed 4,000 Lives in 2017

The opioid crisis is serious, and it appears to be getting worse instead of better. The number of deaths climbed to 4,000 in 2017, up over the previous year. New data showed another increase in the first few months of 2018, suggesting the crisis is getting worse.

The continuing crisis has many people asking what can be done. Many solutions have been proposed, including more safe injection sites, harm reduction methods, and even the increased use of medical marijuana.


The Path Forward Is Clear

Opioids have been a standby for the medical profession for many years. With so many people using and misusing them, however, it’s time for a new solution. That solution could include medical cannabis. In fact, many patients support this idea.

The trend away from opioid medications and towards medical marijuana is likely to continue, and with it, better health for many patients is on the horizon.


the-devastating-effects-of-ontario_s-opioid-epidemic

Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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