A COMIC'S VIEW: The alternative to opioid medication

By Inigo “Naughty” Zenicazelaya

I HAVE long said the barber shop is the last bastion of free speech. All topics are fair game and all opinions whether intellectual or idiotic are up for debate.

During my weekly visit, I ran into an old basketball buddy who looked well except for the walking boot on his left foot, the dreaded Achilles tendon (and his wife’s orders post injury) had ended his hoops career.

I’ve been there with my left knee and my ‘CEO’ dishing out a similar ultimatum.

I felt his pain, the only solace I could offer him was that he went out with the same injury our favorite player ever, Kobe Bryant, did.

After sharing a laugh and catching up, he expressed to me how bad his pain meds were making him feel.

Being a subscriber to natural medicine and more holistic cures, this caught my attention, in fact it was a red flag.

My friend continued to explain that his meds were opioid based and he had concerns that they were the reason for his ‘bad feelings’ – meaning he had to take more medication to achieve the desired pain relief than when he initially started and if he didn’t take the pain meds regularly the worse he would feel.

After cautioning him to not take any more of his pain meds, as these types of medication have highly addictive properties and to consult with his physician immediately for a possible replacement for his pain medication.

My friend’s predicament got my mind turning and it reminded me of a recent study at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in relation to the effects of marijuana in relation to pain relief.


Due to the alarming opiate epidemic globally, coupled with an increased interest in medical marijuana, there has been a new boom in research on how cannabis can help with pain.

The new study by the University of British Columbia Okanagan is important because it proves even if you use marijuana frequently to help ease pain, you will not need to increase your marijuana consumption or that you are no longer getting pain relief at all from marijuana intake.

According to Michelle St Pierre, the head researcher at the University of British Columbia Okanagan: “Recent years have seen an increase in the adoption of cannabinoid medicines, which have demonstrated effectiveness for the treatment of chronic pain, however the extent to which frequent marijuana use influences sensitivity to acute pain has not been systematically examined.”

Zach Walsh, head of the UBC Therapeutic Recreational and Problematic Substance Use Lab, added: “This study should come as good news to patients who are already using cannabis to treat pain, increases in pain sensitivity with opioids can really complicate an already tough situation; given increasing uptake of cannabis-based pain medications it’s a relief that we didn’t identify a similar pattern with cannabinoids.”


Opiates are currently the go-to prescribed medication for pain and dependence on opiates is a major issue.

It’s quite easy to become addicted as patients have to up their opiate doses to deal with pain, which makes them even more dangerous.

“There is a different effect from opioid users; sustained use of opioids can make people more reactive to pain. We wanted to determine if there was a similar trend for people who use marijuana frequently,” said St Pierre. “Marijuana and opioids share some of the same pain-relief pathways and have both been associated with increases in pain sensitivity following acute use.”


The study examined marijuana users who use marijuana more than three times a week and compared them with people who were not cannabis users.

Despite sounding like a portion of the ‘Spanish Inquisition’ participants willingly had their hands and arms submerged in cold water to determine their individual pain tolerance level.

This determined that marijuana does not cause hyperalgesia, or enhanced sensitivity to pain.

“Our results suggest frequent marijuana use did not seem to be associated with elevated sensitivity to experimental pain in a manner that can occur in opioid therapy,” St Pierre concluded.

“This is an important distinction that care providers and patients should consider when selecting options for pain management. These findings are particularly relevant in light of recent reports of opioid overprescribing and high rates of pain in the population, as it suggests that cannabis may not carry the same risk of hyperalgesia as opioids.”


This is a hugely important study for the new era of marijuana pain research, as it provides even more evidence that marijuana and medicinal marijuana extracts are a safer alternative to dangerous, habit-forming opiates.

A far better alternative for Bahamians than habit forming opiate-based drugs.

More research will reveal even more details about how marijuana works with pain management, if studies continue to show positive results this could be a key component in “medicinal marijuana tourism”.

Medicinal marijuana tourism would give a well needed boost to our main industry tourism, an industry that we aren’t diverting from any time soon as a nation, as our main source of revenue.

But that’s an entirely different column for another day, in regards to how we can better use a certain government-owned hotel in Grand Bahama.


trueBahamian 2 years, 8 months ago

Wow! A very informative article. Really good! There are a lot of positives about the medicinal values of marijuana. It's interesting that there's so much negativity surrounding the medicinal value of marijuana. Pharmaceutical companies want everyone to continue popping their products, no matter how destructive. They have to make their profits, whether you're harmed or helped.


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