TRU opens the conversation on harm reduction

In wake of opioid crisis, researchers bring cannabis to the table as a solution

Speakers from Moms Stop The Harm shared personal stories of how opioid-laced cannabis affected their lives and the steps they’ve taken since to fight for the decriminalization of the drug. (Aidan Grether/The Omega)

The Kamloops Summit on Opioid and Cannabinoid Research opened the discussion on solutions and local research on the recent opioid crisis and the use of medical cannabis to ease those suffering from substance abuse. The event was sponsored by TRU, as well as two faculty members; Nan Stevens, who has personal experience using medical cannabis with her 16-year-old son, and Florriann Fehr.

The evening opened with a territory acknowledgment and words from the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc elders, asking for open minds towards this new medicine entering into the mainstream.

The summit started with two emotional stories from mothers in Kamloops who were closely affected by the recent opioid crisis. Sherry Robinson and Sandra Tully, members of the harm reduction initiative Moms Stop the Harm, spoke personally about the sons they have lost.

Robinson, the Kamloops representative for Moms Stop the Harm, spoke about her son Tyler. Tyler had struggled long and hard with substance abuse and later passed away from an accidental overdose. Robinson spoke to the crowd, under the photo of Tyler, about the shame and stigma of her son’s addiction that silenced her before his death.

“Over the years I just didn’t realize how that shame and stigma silenced myself, because I had internalized it as a personal failure,” Robinson said.

Giving the summit a personal touch, the topic of conversation later turned towards the research that has sprouted into the medical community recently.

Philippe Lucas, vice-president and patient research and access personnel for Tilray, a medical cannabis company, brought to light the research that has been underway both by Tilray itself and other medical representatives.

Lucas aptly named medical cannabis as the “exit drug,” unlike the label that has been given to cannabis as a “gateway drug.”

Lucas believed that the use of medical cannabis would work tenfold for those suffering from the withdrawal symptoms they may experience after using opioids.

Tilray is working with the medical cannabis world for one reason; to improve the patient’s well-being and comfort of living.

Medical cannabis has been used for years as a method of medicating and easing symptoms for many chronic illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain and HIV/AIDS. Many have found that the use of medical cannabis has limited the dependency on other pharmaceuticals (under the supervision of a physician).

While Lucas has a positive outlook for the medical cannabis industry, he admitted that “we don’t have a crystal ball,” when guessing if medical cannabis products will have pharmacy access by the summer of 2019.

Every speaker from the evening’s summit spoke on one common point; medical cannabis is a studied mode of harm reduction.

The evening was a warm welcoming to the new found medical field of cannabis. The research is young but those involved in the summit were hopeful that with the legalization on Oct. 17, the opportunities for research will grow.