According to the American Society of Addiction, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, beating out car accidents and gun homicides, and opioid addiction is what is driving this epidemic.
The New York Times has reported that in 2016, opioid overdose deaths exceeded 50,000. That is the largest annual jump in opioid overdoses ever recorded in American history.
Despite the alarming death and abuse rates related to opioids, they are still the most widely prescribed treatment for pain. In New Jersey, you can get Fentanyl, an opioid 50 times more potent than heroin that can kill with a dose as small as a grain of sand, for a simple tonsil removal.
What can we do about the Opioid Epidemic in our country? Cannabis may be at least part of the answer, especially for those dealing with chronic pain – a condition that opioids are very commonly prescribed to treat.
Cannabis as a substitute for opioids
A groundbreaking study conducted by the University of California – Berkeley, one of the world’s leading research institutions, and HelloMD, a leading telemedicine solution for cannabis patients, resulted in promising findings for the use of cannabis as a substitute for opioids.
Some of the most significant findings in this study, which surveyed 3,000 medical cannabis patients in HelloMD’s database, included:
- 97% of patient respondents “strongly agreed/agreed” they could reduce their opioid use by using cannabis
- 92% of patient respondents “strongly agreed/agreed” they would prefer to use cannabis in treating their medical conditions than opioids
- 81% of patient respondents “strongly agreed/agreed” that cannabis was more effective when used by itself than when used in conjunction with opioid or other pain medications.
These findings help explain a phenomenon happening in legal cannabis states: opioid related deaths dropped 25% in states that have legalized cannabis use, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated he was “astonished” that people would think cannabis could help solve the opioid crisis, despite all emerging evidence that cannabis can be a viable alternative to opioid use, enough so to actually lower accidental opioid deaths in legal cannabis states.
According to Sessions, cannabis is only “slightly less awful” than heroin, a claim that doesn’t seem to have any basis in reality.
There has not been a single documented case of cannabis overdose…in the WORLD. The United Nations Office of Drug and Crimes says in their 2017 World Drug Report that cannabis is the most widely consumed, trafficked and confiscated drug in the world. But, they were unable to find evidence for a single overdose death related to cannabis.
To recap: Cannabis is a natural plant, proven to be effective in treating medical conditions highly addictive opioids are often prescribed for, with no evidence to have caused a single overdose, and plenty of evidence showing legal cannabis states have cut their opioid deaths by 25%.
Cannabis sounds pretty promising in curbing the Opioid Epidemic, if only we can get those in Washington D.C. to agree.
The types of findings mentioned above are vital in making a case for cannabis legalization on a federal level at the most, and making a case for more federally accepted research at the least. These steps towards disproving the erroneous claims about cannabis as a harmful drug are huge stepping stones on the road to full access to cannabis for patients.