Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 74 last week, which will allocate $500,000 per year for the next two years towards combating opioid addiction.
The money will be given to the CU-Anschutz College of Nursing to fund a pilot program, which will focus its efforts on counties who’ve been particularly affected by the opioid epidemic. A specific statute within Colorado’s cannabis legislation allows cannabis tax revenue be used to “treat and provide related services to people with any type of substance use disorder, including those with co-occurring disorders, or to evaluate the effectiveness and sufficiency of substance use disorder services.”
The Southeastern Colorado region contains about 6 percent of the state’s population. However, it accounts for 18 percent of all hospital admissions for heroin abuse. Between 2014 and 2016, drug overdoses in Routt county increased by almost 600 percent. Text within the bill mentions that fatal overdoses have doubled between 2000 and 2015. But between Pueblo and Routt counties, there are a total of four physicians trained in prescribing medication for opioid treatment. The allocated tax dollars would help train more medical professionals in administering treatments.
“…we all know that the opioid problem is impacting every single one of our districts across the state, so I think we are all just trying to help find solutions that will work,” said Representative Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) in February after the legislation was approved unanimously in committee. “This isn’t a Pueblo issue. This isn’t a Republican issue. This isn’t a Democrat issue. This is an issue impacting every single of one our districts.”
The program would focus on awarding grants to initiatives that focus on treatment, mental health services, and medical care given to patients suffering from addiction. A grant-style approval process for would be used to request funds, which would include an advisory board made up of local and state health officials, and requirements for reporting the results of the grant programs. The data gathered by the grant programs would be presented to the state legislature and the governor’s office.
It is not clear if state health officials are considering cannabis as a possible treatment for opioid addiction or opioid withdrawal. Last year, a study showed a decrease in opioid prescriptions in states who had legalized medical marijuana, and an increase in patients using medical marijuana to treat pain conditions instead of opioid painkillers. While public health experts are looking to curb addiction and fatal overdoses, cannabis could be a non-fatal and less addictive alternative. The CDC estimates that the nation spends $72 billion on opioid abuse annually, and deaths from opioids had quadrupled since 1999.
Colorado’s new program is set to launch on or before January 2018. Any unused funds at the end of the fiscal year would rollover to the following year, and the CU-Anschutz College of Nursing advisory board will have the latitude to accept additional funds in the forms of donations and gifts that would directly benefit the program. Thanks to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, created during the Obama Administration, the state legislature was able to help initialize the program.
By now the perceptions that cannabis is a gateway to harder drug use and a depressed life have been quashed. Public opinion supports cannabis legalization while the federal government is still trying to make the case that cocaine, methamphetamine, and about 50 opiates and opioids are less dangerous and more medically beneficial than cannabis. Arguments based on fear, ignorance, money, racism and dogma justify abominable views but do little to save lives.
Fighting the War on Drugs with harm reduction as a goal opposed to incarceration and shaming is generally accepted as a more humane and respectful way to deal with the opiate addiction crisis in the United States but is eschewed in favor of mandatory minimum sentences and civil forfeiture. It’s already been proven that cannabis can help folks get off crack cocaine; the notion that less harmful substances can be replaced with safer alternatives is not new.
In America, children are being called on to save their overdosing parents and send them to jail. Across the Atlantic harm reduction is a way of life and not the theory or experiment that Americans believe it to be. According to Harm Reduction International’s website,
“Harm reduction forms an integral component of HIV and drug policy and programmes within most Western European countries. Almost every country with reported injecting drug use has key harm reduction interventions in place. Several countries also include drug consumption rooms, syringe vending machines and the prescription of injectable OST and pharmaceutical heroin among their harm reduction interventions.“
On this side of the pond any progress we had been making stalled with the ascension of Supreme Leader Trump and his merry band of billionaires. They are poised to strip away addiction services and fill private prisons with the low-hanging fruit of drug offenders (minorities). That’s American Economics for you.
Led by Prince’s untimely passing, a surge of overdose deaths attributed to the very powerful and very FDA-approved opioid Fentanyl, which is regarded as less dangerous than cannabis by the Controlled Substances Act has not done anything to curb the enthusiasm of drug manufactures. Now would seem like a primo time to consider whether a substance 50-100 times more powerful than morphine is overkill. Instead one maker of the drug donated $500,000 to defeat cannabis legalization in Arizona last November showing just how brash, ignorant and insensitive Big Pharma can be.
Prescription drug prices continue to rise and pound prices for cannabis are steadily falling. It’s just a big money hustle for the approved drug dealers of the world. A new study presented by Ashley C. Bradford and W. David Bradford states,
“In the past twenty years, twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of medical marijuana law. Using quarterly data on all fee-for-service Medicaid prescriptions in the period 2007–14, we tested the association between those laws and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries. We found that the use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied. If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion. These results are similar to those in a previous study we conducted, regarding the effects of medical marijuana laws on the number of prescriptions within the Medicare population. Together, the studies suggest that in states with such laws, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries will fill fewer prescriptions”
Cannabis consumption reduces dependency on opiates. Whether attempting to get clean through rehabilitation, 12-step programs or sheer white-knuckling self-control the use of cannabis during such an undertaking is thought to be counter-intuitive or blasphemous among the majority. Wayward positions such as those will continue to proliferate until addiction is no longer treated as a crime and the status quo is challenged.
In a report released by the CDC on how to properly prescribe opioid painkillers, the authors advises doctors not to test patients for marijuana.
To qualify for a pain management regiment, many clinics in the United States test for illegal drugs to determine if a patient has a penchant for abuse. Some doctors ban patients who test positive THC, even if marijuana is legal in the state. The CDC’s new guidelines seek to avoid “inappropriate termination of care” as a result of a doctor’s personal biases.
“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear.”
The authors of the guidelines recognize the dangers of turning away patients in need of pain management, as the opioid epidemic helps patients to acquire painkillers outside of the healthcare system.
“Clinicians should not dismiss patients from care based on a urine drug test result because this could constitute patient abandonment and could have adverse consequences for patient safety, potentially including the patient obtaining opioids from alternative sources and the clinician missing opportunities to facilitate treatment for substance use disorder.”
In addition, the report also highlights the inconsistency of urine tests for THC. “…experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).”
Previously, Pain News Network reported on the inconsistencies of drug tests for THC as well as opioids. “One study found that 21% of POC tests for marijuana produced a false positive result. The test was also wrong 21% of the time when marijuana is not detected in a urine sample.” Another study also revealed that incorporating cannabis into pain management treatments does not increase risk of substance abuse.
While the CDC report does not suggest marijuana is an alternative to an opioid painkiller, despite a report indicating a reduction in opioid deaths in states with reformed marijuana legislation, it was released not long after Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plea to the CDC to study the effectiveness of marijuana for pain management.