Opioids Kill, Marijuana Cures. Solving An American Crisis – Part 1

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Can Medical Marijuana Solve The Americas Opioid Crisis?

Opioid Crisis in America

Opioid’s in America Overview

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others. Opioids are strong painkillers and are usually prepared from opium. There are mild opioids, such as tramadol and codeine, and strong ones, like morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl. The abuse of opioids is very controversial because they cover illegal substances as well as prescription. All over the world, there are signs of an increase in the prescription of strong opioids. Opioids work mainly on the opioid receptors, which are majorly found in the brain regions that are involved in pain regulation, the central nervous system and in the gastrointestinal tract. This is why opioid painkillers work as analgesic and euphoric drugs. Opioids block pain signals in the central nervous system and give a euphoric feeling to the user. In patients with chronic pain, a slight pain can trigger all the tendency to use opioids. Heroin is the most used illegal opioid while fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone are some of the most abused prescription drugs. Oxycodone has the same chemical compositions with morphine and heroin. It also provides a short-term relieve for chronic pain patients. Before now, oxycodone was mainly used for terminal cancer patients but in recent years, its use has rapidly increased. Oxycodone has a major dark side. Some health professionals believe if you take it as a painkiller for more than thirty days, the chances are that you will become addicted to it. According to a University of Wisconsin study, since the end of the nineties, the use of these opioids has increased significantly worldwide. For example, the morphine in the US increased from about 70 mg per person in 1990 to 701 mg per person per year in 2014. In Europe these numbers are lower, but increase at the same rate: from 6 to 34 mg in 1990 to 214 to 485 mg per person in 2014.

The Statistics are Alarming

Presently, opioid painkillers are the most commonly prescribed group of analgesics in the US. The numbers of opioids addicts are rising and one third of the total number of deaths from overdose is due to opioid painkillers. The consequences of the epidemic for American society are enormous, starting with health care. Hospitals complain that their emergency aid is becoming overloaded, and the re-use of needles has increased the spread of Hepatitis B and C in recent years. One in five of mental disorder patients also consumes some legal or illegal opioid. In the US, the number of deaths from heavy painkillers has become so alarming that the Drug Enforcement Administration has officially called it an epidemic and an opioid crisis since 2015. Every year fourteen thousand Americans die of an overdose of painkillers. If all opioids are added, there are 42 thousand deaths per year – more than the number of breast cancer deaths. According to the CNN, opioids killed more Americans than breast cancer in 2016 and right now, millions are suffering from this terrible epidemic.

TV anchor who covered the opioid crisis for years reports on daughter’s fatal overdose.

The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers in the US increased from 76 million in 1991 to 259 million in 2012. This number is still growing and one in 20 Americans aged 12 or older has used these drugs for non-medical reasons. The opioids epidemic is also a major financial crisis. So far, America has lost more than 500 billion dollars to it and recently, the White House estimated that the crisis takes more than 500,000 million dollars every year. This year, the US Congress released $3.3 billion to fight the opiate epidemic. A new study by the Council of Economic Advisors shows that the financial damage is much larger than previously thought. The amount is six times bigger than the previous estimation. According to experts, the number of overdoses has been underestimated and some medications were not included in previous studies.

Can Medical Marijuana Help Us Eliminate The Opioid Epidemic?

After President Donald Trump declared the rising mortality rate caused by opioids overdose as a national public health emergency, those who design public policies for him are creating new stricter policies aimed at restricting opioids use. But, this measure is not working efficiently. In fact, some people believe that this step is driving more users to more potent drugs such as heroin. However, there is a strategy that can effectively stop the growing rate of overdose deaths and the opioids crisis: legalizing medical marijuana.

“Together, we will face this challenge as a national family with conviction, with unity, and with a commitment to love and support our neighbors in times of dire need. Working together, we will defeat this opioid epidemic.”

A lot of medical marijuana advocates believe that cannabis is the best weapon needed to combat the opioids crisis and decrease the number of deaths caused by drugs overdose that currently shakes the United States. Some say medical marijuana products should be made available to patients that suffer from opioids addiction as an alternative treatment.

Research and Studies

Research has shown that the use of medical or recreational marijuana can reduce this opioids crisis. Several studies have proven that marijuana is an effective analgesic, this means that its medicinal property could be used as an alternative treatment and thus reduce the prescription of certain opioid analgesics that have played a crucial role in the current overdose epidemic. In addition, it is proven that marijuana does not cause fatal overdoses and it’s less addictive. In a study, Hefei Wen of the University of Kentucky and Jason Hockenberry of Emory University found that the approval of medical and recreational marijuana laws was followed by reductions in Medicaid opioids prescription rates. Wen and Hockenberry concluded that the liberalization of marijuana can serve as a component of a comprehensive package to address the opioid epidemic. Another study also examined opioid prescriptions given to people enrolled in the Medicare program. Each year from 2010 to 2015, experts examined the states that allow medical marijuana with those that do not. Fourteen states in addition to the District of Columbia had such laws since the beginning of the period; another nine were incorporated during the period studied. The study found that Medicare beneficiaries in states where marijuana is legally sold ordered an average of 14 less daily doses of opioids than residents of other states. Also, patients in states where only domestic marijuana cultivation is allowed also saw a 7% decrease in opioids prescriptions. The studies are the latest in a long line of research showing that the availability of marijuana is associated with reductions in the use and abuse of opiates. But, Wen and Hockenberry’s report is significant in finding a link between recreational marijuana and the use of opioids, since most previous research has focused on medical marijuana. These findings further reinforce the arguments in favor of considering the medical applications of marijuana as a tool that can be used to reduce the damage of prescription opioids.

Criticism

Those who oppose the legalization of marijuana have said for years that marijuana is a gateway that leads consumers to more dangerous and addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. These claims are based on the fact that most consumers of heroin and other dangerous drugs also report that they use marijuana. Critics of the gateway theory point out that Instead of being a gateway, marijuana is the exit route of opioids abuse.

Opioid Crisis: How America is Fighting Addiction

Also, many patients and health professionals across the country believe that more investigations and scientific studies have to be carried out and objective data needs to be presented before marijuana should be considered the best alternative to addictive opioids.

The Approval of Marijuana as An Opioid Alternative by The Governor of Illinois

A few weeks ago, the governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, enacted a law that will allow the use of medical marijuana instead of prescription painkillers, a measure that seeks to combat the opioids epidemic that killed thousands of people in the United States. Rauner said the law will give an alternative to those who need to control pain and struggle with the negative side effects of opioids, including dangerous addiction This new law allows the purchase of medical marijuana in authorized dispensaries, with the sole prescription of a doctor, without having to go through fingerprinting and other criminal background checks that are carried out today to other consumers. Medical marijuana supporters see this law as a significant step in the right direction and a big win in favor of their advocacy for pain management that doesn’t have any potential for a deadly overdose. r. Medical marijuana began to be marketed in Illinois in 2015, in a pilot scheme that includes dispensaries and crops controlled by the state government and that expires in mid-2020. In the state, there are currently 43 diseases treatable with marijuana including cancer, AIDS, rheumatic arthritis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Under the law, a person can be prescribed by their personal physician no more than 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of marijuana every two weeks. It is estimated that there are currently more than 37,000 users of medical marijuana in Illinois compared with about 8 million opioids prescriptions patients. Published By MedCard