The new pot professor from the University of British Columbia will lead studies to look into the potential of cannabis as a treatment for opioid use disorder.

On Friday, Nov. 23, M-J Milloy, a leader in the field epidemiology and a respected research scientist, was announced as the inaugural Canopy Growth professor of Cannabis Science. His appointment was made possible thanks to the $2.5 million gift from Canopy Growth, a major cannabis producer, and $500,000 from the province of British Columbia.

Canada's Opioid Crisis

The primary goal of Milloy's research, according to UBC, is to find evidence that cannabis can provide a positive impact on people who are affected by opioid use disorder. In the past couple of months alone, 1,143 people in British Columbia have died because of a suspected overdose.

Canada, just like the United States, has an opioid crisis. The government estimated that in 2017, approximately 11 lives were lost every day due to opioid overdoses. Majority of the victims, about two-thirds of all opioid-related deaths, were men.

While there are treatment options available, previous research has revealed that fewer than one-third of the people enrolled in an opioid agonist therapy, or OAT, remain after six months. This is concerning because dropping out of addiction treatment is a major risk factor for death due to overdose.

Opioids include fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and heroin. Some opioids are prescribed by doctors to treat major pain, but it can also be obtained illegally.

Cannabis Key To Ending Opioid Crisis?

UBC hopes that the findings of Milloy's research could add evidence to the claims that cannabis could better support people who are suffering from opioid use disorder. If successful, it could pave the way to the introduction of cannabis-based therapy.

"We need all-hands-on-deck to save lives and help people find the treatment and recovery services that will work for them long term," stated Judy Darcy, the Mental Health and Addiction minister of British Columbia. "Our government has been bold and innovative in providing treatment options — based on evidence — for people living with addiction. This first-of-its-kind professorship will lead research and clinical trials on how cannabis products can be used to address the overdose crisis that is taking three to four lives a day."

Milloy's previous research focused on the interrelationship between illicit drugs and HIV. He also probed the public health impact of the legalization of cannabis and the medical application of cannabis for people with substance use disorder.

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