From January to October in 2017, there were 75 opioid-related deaths in Hamilton. This is a number that has surged in the last year, nearly doubling the Ontario average per population of 100,000 (13.2% versus 7.8%).1 The opioid crisis is very real, and it is happening right in our backyard. Over the course of a year, the amount of opioid-related deaths in our city has increased by 80%.
“Opioids are continuing to have a devastating impact on individuals, families, and the community,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health.
Studies have shown that U.S. states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared to states without medical cannabis laws.2 In 2015, a cross-sectional survey of patients in Canada’s national medical cannabis system found that 63% of respondents self-reported substituting cannabis for other prescription drugs (n=166), with 32% of the substitutions being for specifically prescription opioids (n=80).3
The outcomes of this kind of research is part of the reason that Hello Cannabis has started the #GoodbyeOpioids campaign. As engaged members of our community, we want to help build awareness and contribute however possible to minimizing the opioid epidemic in our city. To launch, we’re hosting a concert on a night usually reserved for talking about Cannabis, April 20th.
Benjamin Rispin, one of the key staff members here at Hello Cannabis, is passionate about this project, and is one of the reasons we’re working hard to advocate for more harm reduction options: “The increasing opioid crisis in Hamilton had been staring me in the face. I have lost too many friends in the last 2 years to opioid addiction, and that has driven me to focus on advocacy. Using Cannabis as an “exit drug” or as a supplement for opiates and opioids, to reduce the harm these drugs are doing, is an incredibly powerful option.”
This weekend, we are proud to host a community centric event that will help bring more awareness to not only the opioid crisis but also the possibilities of cannabis as a substitution tool. Findings on cannabis substitution effect suggests there may be three important windows of opportunity for cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP) to play a role in the opioid use and dependence cycle:
1) prior to opioid introduction in the treatment of chronic pain;
2) as an opioid reduction strategy for those already using opioids; and
3) as an adjunct therapy to methadone or Suboxone treatment in order to increase treatment success rates.
The event will feature a variety of musicians and comedians who are excited to be part of the movement to reduce the impact of opioids on our community. We’ll be seeing musical performances from the Flatliners, Melissa Marchese, Royal Tea, Diamond DJ Collective, and Cedar Springs Motel. There will also be comedy performances from Patrick Coppolino, Kev Sheeler, and Mike Mitchell.
While Cannabis alone won’t put an end opioid-related morbidities and mortalities, there is a growing body of research supporting medical cannabis as a safer adjunct or substitute for prescription opioids, especially in cases of chronic pain. We hope that through #GoodbyeOpioids, we can help patients say Hello Cannabis.
- Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, extracted from the Public Health Ontario Interactive Opioid Tool
- Bachhuber, Salone, Cunningham and Barry (2014)
- Medical cannabis access, use, and substitution for prescription opioids and other substances: A survey of authorized medical cannabis patients. Lucas, Philippe et al. International Journal of Drug Policy , Volume 42 , 30 – 35