In an open letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren urged the organization to consider cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids. Her plea came with a strong tone of desperation, as the state battles unusually high overdose rates related to the synthetic drug.
“According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the US remains the largest consumer in the world. Despite accounting for only 5% of the global population, Americans consume 75% of prescription opioid medications in the world,” wrote Warren.
In Massachusetts, roughly 1,100 people died from prescription painkillers in 2014. Around the US, the overdose rate almost doubled between 2000 and 2014. The CDC is aware of the epidemic, but the organization is still busy finalizing new guidelines to tighten the prescription issuance process.
Legal Marijuana to the Rescue
Warren’s proposed solution involves the release of information on marijuana’s medicinal qualities that can be used against chronic pain. To streamline the request, the senator also called for deep collaboration between the leading health institution and federal agencies. In writing, such demands seem straightforward and simple; but due to medical marijuana’s current standing under federal law (it’s illegal), it would be extremely difficult to follow through with the research. Warren would first have to address the legal issues surrounding the drug on a federal level before official health groups can play a more expansive role in the promotion of marijuana.
Medical cannabis use is legal in 23 states, and the possibility of more states welcoming new marijuana laws in the near future is high. Fortunately for Warren, Massachusetts supports the use of weed for medicinal purposes. Several doctors in the area are already promoting cannabis as a viable alternative to controversial painkillers.
Endorsing Medical Cannabis
Getting support from the CDC and other agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), would be a huge boost for Warren and other politicians who are pushing for immediate action to be taken on the time-sensitive issue. In 2015, the group expressed their disappointment over the fed’s refusal to ease regulatory barriers associated with population-based clinical trials. Ultimately, the senator wants the Congress and law enforcement agencies to focus on medical marijuana’s positive role in the battle of addiction, instead of its old reputation as a gateway drug.
“What we are seeing is that, in follow-up visits, patients have decreased and even eliminated their opioids,” said Dr. Uma Dhanabalan of Uplifting Health and Wellness in Natick. “It’s a problem when we are replacing one synthetic opioid with another synthetic opioid because, guess what … synthetic opioids kill, cannabis does not.”