How much does it cost to treat addiction? How much does it cost the healthcare system? What about crime and lost work productivity? Well, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the annual costs for tobacco are US $300 billion overall (2010), $249 billion (2010) for alcohol, $193 billion (2007) for illicit drugs and $78.5 billion (2013) for prescription opioids.
For many, it may seem counterintuitive to treat addiction with cannabis. One of the biggest reasons for this is because many see cannabis as a “drug”, and think it is merely replacing one substance with another.
Yet, we can legitimately ask, “So what?” After all, studies have shown that cannabis is far safer than painkillers, alcohol, amphetamines and all sorts of other drugs, whether they are prescribed or not. In fact, it is not at all unusual to wean people off opioids and alcohol by using other opioids and benzodiazepines in order to prevent potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.
Of course, this form of treatment often means that alcohol and opioid addicts end up being addicted to other, sometimes similar drugs – this time ones that are prescribed. The risk of relapse is quite high, especially as dosages taper off. Cannabis treatment seems so far to be a much safer alternative to many current treatments involving substitutes such as methadone. For one, there is no risk of fatal overdose, and the safety margins are a lot higher with cannabis than with traditional substitutes.