norco and weed

Combining opioids and marijuana may be advantageous for pain sufferers

Study suggests using the two drugs together could reduce risk of dependency without causing cognitive problems

Researchers report combining cannabinoids with morphine did not significantly increase impulsivity or memory impairment in a study conducted in rhesus monkeys. The findings suggest using opioids and marijuana together could offer a safe way to cut opioid dosage among patients suffering from pain and thereby reduce their risk of becoming addicted to opioids.

“These data provide additional evidence supporting the notion that opioid-cannabinoid mixtures that are effective for treating pain do not have greater, and in some cases have less, adverse effects compared with larger doses of each drug alone,” said Vanessa Minervini, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Minervini will present the research at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting during the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting, held April 6-9 in Orlando, Fla.

Previous studies have suggested the cannabinoids in marijuana enhance some of the pain-relieving effects of opioid drugs but do not enhance effects related to addiction and overdose. However, both drugs individually are known to slightly impair cognition, leading to a concern that such side effects could be amplified if opioids and marijuana are used together. Researchers say the new study offers encouraging evidence this is not the case.

The research comes amid a national opioid abuse crisis in which many addictions start with opioids prescribed for pain. At the same time, marijuana use is on the rise as more states legalize the drug for medical or recreational use.

“The current opioid epidemic underscores the need for safe and effective pharmacotherapies for treating pain,” said Minervini. “Combining opioid receptor agonists with drugs that relieve pain through actions at non-opioid mechanisms (for example, cannabinoid receptors) could be a useful strategy for reducing the dose of opioid needed to achieve pain relief.”

The researchers gave several monkeys moderate doses of morphine and CP55940, a synthetic drug that mimics the activity of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) naturally found in marijuana. They assessed impulsivity and memory with tests involving touchscreens and treats. The results showed each drug impeded performance and that giving the monkeys both drugs together had a lower effect on performance than either drug alone.

While clinical trials would need to be conducted to confirm whether these results translate to humans, monkeys tend to process drugs similarly to humans and are considered a good model for cognition.

Researchers report combining cannabinoids with morphine did not significantly increase impulsivity or memory impairment in a study conducted in rhesus monkeys. The findings suggest using opioids and marijuana together could offer a safe way to cut opioid dosage among patients suffering from pain and thereby reduce their risk of becoming addicted to opioids.

Norco Dependence

Updated on April 1, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

The opioid crisis sweeping the United States involves so much more than illegal drugs like heroin. In fact, part of the problem could be in your medicine cabinet. Painkillers like Norco, which are normally prescribed for surgeries and injuries, contain opioids just like morphine or heroin. Addiction can start with good intentions, but end with lethal consequences.

About Norco

Norco is a combination drug that contains acetaminophen and hydrocodone. You can find acetaminophen on its own over the counter, while hydrocodone is an opioid medication that requires a prescription. Manufacturers put these medications together for more effective pain relief, but Norco also comes with a wide range of side effects.

Acetaminophen can cause:

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Skin reactions
  • Nausea
  • Anemia
  • Headache

Hydrocodone has side effects like:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Drowsiness and dizziness
  • Breathing problems

Since Norco includes both drugs, it can cause any of their side effects. Hydrocodone has the most worrisome adverse effects since overdose can lead to lung collapse and death. Patients who take hydrocodone should monitor their symptoms carefully and keep rescue medication on hand.

Addiction to Norco

Acetaminophen doesn’t cause addiction, but as an opioid, hydrocodone is incredibly addictive. When someone becomes addicted to Norco, they have built a dependence on the hydrocodone in it. Hydrocodone impacts the part of your brain related to pain and pleasure to reduce feelings of pain. But, the brain can start to rely on the medication for chemicals related to feeling good. Eventually, the addict will need to take hydrocodone just to feel normal.

A patient can form an addiction to Norco even when they take the medicine as directed. Misuse of Norco, such as taking more frequent usage than recommended, raises the risk of addiction. In some cases, addiction can result from a simple mistake. Since opioids like Norco are so potent, they can make someone build a tolerance or dependence very quickly.

The combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone creates even more risks. Acetaminophen doesn’t have as many side effects as hydrocodone, especially when taken in moderation. However, abuse and addiction involve taking large amounts of the medication, so addicts who use combination drugs also use a lot of acetaminophen. This excess of acetaminophen greatly increases someone’s risk of liver failure.

Despite these dangers, doctors continue to prescribe hydrocodone-based drugs. The United States uses 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, and combination drugs like Norco caused 100,000 ER visits in 2009.

Cannabis Medicine in the Fight Against Norco Addiction

Medicinal marijuana could help us reduce the rates of opioid addiction and abuse in the United States. We can use it to replace opioid painkillers, or add them to an opioid treatment to reduce the dosage. Cannabis medicine also has the potential to help hydrocodone addicts recover more comfortably and safely.

Several studies show we can use medicinal marijuana in many ways to reduce our reliance on opioids. Cannabinoids, the compounds in marijuana, target the same part of the brain as opioids.

A scientific review that synthesizes research on the two types of compounds found good evidence supporting the idea of using cannabis to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. Meanwhile, one study that surveyed almost 3000 patients found that those who used opioids recently could supplement or replace medication like hydrocodone with cannabis medicine.

More Information on Opioids at

Science has proved that medical marijuana can relieve pain, opioid addiction and many other symptoms. To learn more, read our guide to medicinal cannabis and opioid dependence.

Check out our resources on specific opiates and medical marijuana:

  • Abstral
  • Actiq
  • Codeine
  • Demerol
  • Dilaudid
  • Dolophine
  • Duragesic
  • Exalgo
  • Fentora
  • Hysingla ER
  • Kadian
  • Lorcet
  • Lortab
  • Methadose
  • Morphabond
  • MS Contin
  • Naloxone
  • Norco
  • Onsolis
  • Oxaydo
  • Oxycodone
  • OxyContin
  • Roxicet
  • Vicodin
  • Zohydro ER

Learn more about Norco how patients become addicted to Norco and how medicinal cannabis can help treat Norco dependency.