The U.S. opioid epidemic has been steadily getting worse over the past 15 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common opioids that people overdose on are methadone, OxyContin® and Vicodin®. In fact, in 2014, nearly 2 million U.S. citizens were abusing or dependent on prescription opioids. Over 1,000 people a day, are hospitalized for misusing prescription opioids. Many find that the prescription medication doesn’t treat the pain completely and the side effects and withdrawal are so painful to deal with that patients using prescription drugs often end up misusing their prescription, taking more to treat the pain. Overdoses are the ultimate consequence.
The Spike in Opioid-Related Deaths
Now, the opioid epidemic in the country has hit some terrifying levels. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 2002 and 2015, the number of deaths almost tripled. For prescription opioids alone, the death rate has almost doubled in that time. These numbers are very disturbing when looked at alone, yet there has been some hope presented. Studies show that in the states that have legalized marijuana, opioid use has significantly been reduced and hospitalization from opioids has gone down 23 percent. This has happened with absolutely no effort to educate the public on the benefits of marijuana and how it can help those with opioid dependency and addiction.
The Addictive Qualities of Opioids
Many patients are finding that pain symptoms and other physical and emotional disorders are being effectively treated with marijuana. No one in history has ever overdosed on marijuana. Long term studies indicate that there are no physical problems, other than a higher risk for gum disease, that occur after years of marijuana use. It is not nearly as addictive and, for those who feel addicted, the main withdrawal symptom is grumpiness. The same cannot be said for opioids which cause severe body withdrawal symptoms that include pain, vomiting, panic and anxiety, rapid heartbeat, cramping and high blood pressure. Many have actually died from the opioid withdrawal symptoms alone.
Unfounded Skepticism from Marijuana Opponents
There’s a very clear picture being presented about the benefits of marijuana to save thousands of lives and its ability to help heal the opioid epidemic. All the scientific research about this has been clear. Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has failed to do his homework about such things, calling marijuana “slightly less awful than heroin” and medical marijuana “overhyped” despite its ability to save so many lives and treat so many disorders in a natural, safe and healthy way. When comparing almost 35 thousand deaths in 2015 alone caused by opioids compared to 0 deaths in the history of time caused by marijuana, it’s a far stretch to call it “slightly less awful than heroin.”
Returning to a Failed Campaign
Sessions has suggested going back to the old ‘80s “just say no” philosophy of higher law enforcement and zero tolerance. The problem is that evidence showed this campaign to be an utter failure. It cost the U.S. an enormous amount of money in law enforcement, court fees and incarceration costs and there was zero decrease in drug use. It didn’t do anything other than give a handful of people like Sessions a feeling of superiority and control. The drug epidemic was not helped in any way.
Despite his ill-informed stance on marijuana, his home state of Alabama are not quite as closed and many are advocating for the legalization of the plant. There is even a Native American church that uses marijuana as one of their sacraments for its healing abilities.
As these facts continue to come up and many good political leaders step forward to advocate for the plant’s benefits, at least we can count on some hope for healing the nation’s opioid epidemic with a safe plant that has been used for thousands of years to help humanity.