The new marijuana teacher at the University of British Columbia will lead studies to examine the potential of marijuana as a treatment for opioid use disorder.
On Friday, November 23, M-J Milloy, a leader in field epidemiology and respected research scientist, was announced as the inaugural professor of Cannabis Science. His appointment was made possible by the $ 2.5 million gift from Canopy Growth, a major cannabis producer, and $ 500,000 from the province of British Columbia.
Opioid crisis in Canada
The main goal of Milloy's research, according to UBC, is to find evidence that cannabis can have a positive impact on people affected by opioid use disorder. In the past two months, 1,143 people in British Columbia have died because of a suspected overdose.
Canada, like the United States, has an opioid crisis. The government estimated that by 2017, approximately 11 lives were lost every day due to overdose of opiates. Most of the victims, about two-thirds of all opiate-related deaths, were men.
Although treatment options are available, previous research has revealed that less than one-third of people involved in opioid agonist therapy, or OAT, remain after six months. This is worrying because giving up addiction treatment is one of the major risk factors for overdose death.
Opioids include fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, codeine and heroin. Some opioids are prescribed by doctors to treat major pain, but they can also be obtained illegally.
Cannabis Key to Ending the Opioid Crisis?
UBC hopes the Milloy research findings could add to evidence that marijuana could better support people with opioid-use disorders. If successful, it could pave the way for the introduction of cannabis-based therapy.
"We need all hands on the deck to save lives and help people find the recovery and treatment services that will work for them in the long run," said Judy Darcy, British Columbia's Minister of Mental Health and Dependency. "Our government has been adventurous and innovative in providing evidence-based treatment options for people living with dependency. This unprecedented chair will conduct research and clinical trials on how cannabis products can be used to cope with the overdose crisis that is taking three to four lives a day. "
Milloy's earlier research focused on the interrelationship between illicit drugs and HIV. He also investigated the public health impact of legalizing cannabis and the medical application of cannabis to people with substance use disorders.