Krista Hammaker

  • Designation: Northeast Ohio Medical University
  • Country: USA
  • Title: An Answered Call for Aid? Cannabinoid Clinical Framework for the Opioid Epidemic


Krista Hammaker is a third-year medical student at Northeast Ohio Medical University’s M.D. program who has been involved in clinical research since 2008. At age 17 and under the mentorship of Dr. Rebecca Bascom, MD, MPH, she began drafting permanent impairment ratings for patients with occupational lung disease. She assisted with the creation of a tissue repository for research. Under the mentorship of Dr. David Campbell, MD, she completed a cohort study of medical versus surgical management of massive pulmonary embolism (PE), which led to a revision of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s PE treatment protocol. She presented at the American Association of Ophthalmic Oncologists & Pathologists (AAOOP) conference at age 21. Before starting medical school, she studied naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, where she learned about herbal medicine and supplement research, sourcing, and manufacturing. While studying naturopathic medicine, she worked with Dr. Laurie Mischley, ND, Ph.D. on a qualitative study of the effectiveness of cannabis in the palliation of Parkinson’s disease, with Dr. Leanna Standish, ND, Ph.D., on a retrospective matched con- trol review of breast cancer survival in women treated with integrative medicine. With Dr. Standish, KH helped achieve the first FDA approval for human research with ayahuasca—a Phase 1 safety and dose-finding study of ayahuasca tea in healthy adults (IND 131217). She has earned a Certificate in Clinical Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and other notable research efforts include a study of long-term outcomes of neoadjuvant chemoradiation and esophagectomy, as well as employed research positions funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and Sleep and Behavioral Neuroscience Center at the University of Pittsburgh. 


Background: The opioid crisis continues in full force, as physicians and caregivers are desperate for resources to help patients with opioid use and chronic pain disorders find safer and more accessible non-opioid tools.

Main body: The purpose of this article is to review the current state of the opioid epidemic, the shifting picture of cannabinoids, and the research, policy, and current events that make opioid risk reduction an urgent public health challenge. The provided table contains an evidence-based clinical framework for the utilization of cannabinoids to treat patients with chronic pain who are dependent on opioids, seeking alternatives to opioids, and tapering opioids.

Conclusion: Based on a comprehensive review of the literature and epidemiological evidence to date, cannabinoids stand to be one of the most interesting, safe, and accessible tools available to attenuate the devastation resulting from the misuse and abuse of opioid narcotics. Considering the urgency of the opioid epidemic and the broadening of cannabinoid accessibility amidst absent prescribing guidelines, the authors recommend the use of this clinical framework in the contexts of both clinical research continuity and patient care.

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