While marijuana is typically maligned in popular thought as the “gateway drug,” some believe medical marijuana might actually be helpful in treating drug addiction.

In an interview with Southern Colorado’s KOAA TV, Jaymen Johnson, owner of medical marijuana healthcare facility OMM Alternative, believes that marijuana could be used as an alternative treatment for drug addiction.

There isn’t yet any substantial research from the medical community to support his claim, but it does at least seem to have some potential credibility. By comparison, methadone is the drug treatment of choice for addiction to opioids like morphine and heroin. The problem is, methadone also creates dependency, if not addiction. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2009 methadone accounted for more than 30 percent of all deaths associated with prescription opioids – an increase of six times the number of deaths over a 10-year period – and further estimates about 5,000 people die each year of overdoses related to methadone. Additionally, states that have passed medical marijuana laws have 25% fewer painkiller overdose deaths than states that have not.

The correlation between medical marijuana use and reduced prescription overdose deaths is at best tenuous right now, as there are only a limited number of years of data to evaluate and research into the long-term effects of medical marijuana is still in its infancy, but it certainly bears more exploration. With medical cannabis patients already substituting cannabis as an alternative to alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs for reasons of perceived safety, level of addiction potential, effectiveness in relieving symptoms, access, and level of acceptance, this could bode well for a potential alternative treatment for those with (typically severe) opioid addictions instead of the problematic methadone.