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Myths and Misperceptions of Opioids and Cannabis

Activity Type:

  • On Demand

Release Date: 2/1/2017

Expiration Date: 2/1/2020

  • AMA PRA Category 1: 1.5
  • Participation: 1.5



In recent years, dramatic growth in the use and misuse of opioids and policy changes regarding the legalization of cannabis have taken center stage in addiction science. In the case of the opioid abuse epidemic, this visibility has prompted increased research efforts to prevent and treat opioid use disorders, along with the fatalities associated with opioid overdoses. Opioids—long recognized for their analgesic potency—are particularly beneficial for the management of severe acute pain, but their use for chronic pain is increasingly being questioned. Not only do they rapidly lead to tolerance, necessitating dose increases to sustain analgesia, but their use can result in addiction even in those suffering from pain. Moreover, some individuals addicted to prescription opioids are transitioning to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to procure. Effective medications exist for the treatment of opioid use disorders but they have not been widely utilized. In the case of cannabis, the push toward its medicalization and legalization requires research to learn more about its negative effects, as well as its potential therapeutic benefits. Despite some areas of uncertainty, a substantial body of research provides evidence that cannabis use is associated with a wide range of adverse consequences for mental health, including interfering with brain development. Of particular interest has been the association of cannabis with psychiatric disorders (psychoses), but also its therapeutic potential in mental illness (e.g., PTSD). This presentation discusses misconceptions that contribute to the opioid epidemic and the inappropriate treatment of opioid use disorders and highlights ongoing research efforts to better understand both the positive and negative potential of cannabis.

**This content was captured at the 2016 APA Annual Meeting and may reference information from various sources and terminology from previous editions of the DSM. 


  • General Member - $18.75
  • Resident-Fellow Member - Free
  • Medical Student Member - $18.75
  • Non-Member - $37.50

Free member registration for this course through the Course of the Month program ended on March 10, 2017.

Educational Objectives

  • Describe the mechanism of action of opioids and the physiological development of tolerance and addiction.
  • Summarize statistics of opioid prescribing in the US and their relationship to opioid-analgesic and heroin overdose deaths since 1999.
  • List treatments of overdose and alternate methods for pain management. 

Target Audience

Psychiatrists, Resident/Fellows

Estimated Time to Complete

Estimated Duration: 1.5 hours
Begin Date: February 1, 2017
End Date: February 1, 2020

How to Earn Credit

Participants who wish to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™ or a certificate of participation may do so by completing all sections of the course including the evaluation. A multiple choice quiz is provided based on the content. A passing score of 60% must be achieved. Retakes are available for the test. After evaluating the program, course participants will be provided with an opportunity to claim hours of participation and print an official CME certificate (physicians) or certificate of participation (non-physicians) showing the event date and hours earned. 

Continuing Education Credit

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The APA designates this enduring CME activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Faculty and Planner Disclosures


  • Nora Volkow, M.D., National Institute on Drug Abuse. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 

Program Planners

  • Tristan Gorrindo, M.D., Director of Education, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Mira Zein, M.D., New York University School of Medicine. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Ricardo A. Juarez, M.S., Deputy Director, Development and Engagement, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 
  • Claire Van Wagner, Membership Development Coordinator, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests. 

Hardware/Software Requirements

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using Internet Explorer 8+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Safari 4+. This Web site requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

Optimal System Configuration:

  • Flash Player: Adobe Flash Player 10.3+ 
  • Browser: Firefox (latest version), Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 7.0+, Microsoft Edge (latest version) or Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Operating System: Windows XP+ or Mac OS X 10.4+ 
  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher

Minimum Requirements:

  • Windows PC: 500-MHz Pentium II; Windows XP or higher; 128 MB RAM; Video Card at least 64MB of video memory; Macromedia Flash Player 10.3 or higher; Sound Card at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content
  • Macintosh:Mac OS X 10.4+ or higher with latest updates installed; 1.83MHz Intel Core Duo or faster; RAM: 128MB or more; Video Card: at least 64MB of video memory; Sound Card: at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

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