America is in the middle of an opioid epidemic. There is no denying this. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has documented and published extreme rate increases of opioid abuse and deaths since the late 1990s.
The cause is also fairly obvious; doctors have been instructed for the past two decades to treat the patient’s pain above all else. Opioids help with pain, and so doctors took the easy way out and started prescribing *intense* painkiller therapies to folks with conditions ranging from sprained ankles to bad coughs to cancer patients with compromised immune systems.
It may be too early to mention that many, many doctors have gotten in trouble (and even lost their licenses to practice) due to unscrupulous financial relationships with pharmaceutical manufacturers. No, it’s not too early. It’s actually way too late.
Doctors are supposed to be figures in society that we trust with our lives. So if the doctor says you need a massive prescription of opioids filled, very few patients are going to argue with that, let alone think twice.
The result is being called a national epidemic. As it should be. Accidental opioid deaths are skyrocketing, addiction treatment centers are bogged down trying to handle the load, and those who relied on opioids for pain are increasingly turning to other narcotics like heroin to feel good again.
So, in just a few bullet points, I am going to provide you with recent evidence that may serve you well should you ever have the chance to personally educate a member of the current federal administration on the effectiveness of marijuana over opioids..
The Opioid vs. Marijuana Argument
There is an opioid problem (link):
- 20% of patients with acute and chronic pain are prescribed opioids.
- In 20212, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids, more than the number of adults in America
- From 1999-2014, 165,000 people died from opioid overdoses.
- “Sales of opioid pain medication have increased in parallel with opioid-related overdose deaths.
It leads to other drug problems.
- 86% of young, urban heroin users admitted they moved to heroin after abusing opioids from family, friends, and personal prescriptions (link).
- In 2016, the city of St. Louis saw a 94% increase in annual opioid deaths, many from the drug fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50+ more times powerful than heroin (link). Officers have to carry antidotes for themselves and K-9 units because of the high risk of coming into contact with fentanyl. Absorption through the skin can cause instant impairment (link).
- Early Phase In The Development Of Cannabidiol As A Treatment For Addiction: Opioid Relapse Takes Initial Center Stage
- The Dark Side Of Emotion: The Addiction Perspective
- Medical Cannabis Laws And Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality In The United States, 1999-2010
- Cannabinoid And Opioid Interactions: Implications For Opiate Dependence And Withdrawal
- Prescribing Cannabis For Harm Reduction
- Cannabinoid-opioid Interaction In Chronic Pain
- Modulation Of Oral Morphine Antinociceptive Tolerance And Naloxone-precipitated Withdrawal Signs By Oral Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol
- Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol Releases And Facilitates The Effects Of Endogenous Enkephalins: Reduction In Morphine Withdrawal Syndrome Without Change In Rewarding Effect
- Long-term Treatment With SR141716A, The CB1 Receptor Antagonist, Influences Morphine Withdrawal Syndrome.
When given the choice, people choose cannabis over opioids.
States with laws allowing patients to have access to cannabis have fewer problems with opioids.
- Study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (link).
- Study from NBER/RAND/UC Irvine (link).
- Study funded by National Institutes of Health (link).
The Center for Disease Control agrees.
- CDC not only agrees, they asked doctors across the country to stop drug testing for marijuana (link).
And so there you have it folks. A wealth of clinical and social evidence and it still is not good enough for our federal government.
But despite all of my frustrations, there are those of you fighting everyday for better access to cannabis. I hear from folks all the time in states without medical cannabis who literally can feel themselves dying (their words), not as a result of their condition, but as a result of being irresponsibly prescribed addictive and powerful painkillers.
Today’s takeaway: If we are all aware of the facts, we can help educate those in power, and hopefully have a positive impact on cannabis laws across the country.