Opioid addiction and abuse has easily been the most prominent medical controversy of the past decade. While physicians routinely prescribe opioids to treat temporary and chronic pain, the side effects usually produce more issues than the patient’s initial condition. In an article originally produced by Dr. Max Gomez of CBS New York, medical cannabis has been presented as a treatment option with the potential to end the severe opioid epidemic in the United States.
Like many Americans, Christine Stenquist suffered from chronic pain due to a brain tumor, fibromyalgia, and frequent headaches. As a result, Christina was prescribed 45 different drugs, many of which were opioids. According to Christina, “Migraines were just constant. So they started me on a lot of pharmaceuticals, and that went on for 16 years.”
After being bedridden because of her medical conditions and opioid side effects, Stenquist made the decision to try medical cannabis. She notes, “This is just a whole different lifestyle. I’m eating healthier, I’m more active, more alert.”
Like a growing number of Americans, Stenquist found medical cannabis to be common sense alternative to harsh opioid-based painkillers. While opioid painkillers can produce a range of nasty side effects, the number of deaths due to overdoses are off the charts. However, several studies have suggested that states with medical cannabis programs have 25% less deaths due to opioid overdose. These numbers have made it clear that medical cannabis can be used to stop the deadly opioid epidemic which has gripped the nation.
While most people see medical cannabis as an obvious alternative to prescription painkillers, the plant has yet to receive the support it deserves from the federal government. In fact, the DEA continues to warn citizens that cannabis has a high potential for abuse, a point which is not supported by empirical data. In addition, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated that cannabis is, “only slightly less awful” than heroin. The Attorney General has also stated, “I reject the idea that we’re going to be a better place if we have more marijuana.”
Many medical professionals, including Dr. Carla Rossotti Vazquez, disagree with these sentiments expressed by the Attorney General. Vazquez notes, “I’ve had patients that since they have been using vaporizers with cannabis, they’ve decreased their use in Ambien, they’ve decreased their use on Clonazepam, on Percocet.”
In order to support the fight against the opioid epidemic, patients like Christine Stenquist have found themselves turning into advocates. “Within six months, I was driving. Within eight months, I was trying to figure out how to pass a law in my state,” Stenquist notes.
While a majority of US states have at least adopted a minimal medical cannabis program, there are still roadblocks that stand in the way of nationwide legalization. Despite this, patients everywhere have made it clear that they do not plan on going back to prescription opioids anytime soon.
The need for common sense cannabis legislation is all US states is more dire than ever. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, deaths resulting from prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999.; this means that 91 Americans die every day from prescription opioid abuse. Medical cannabis is not just a trend in the present day: it is literally the difference between life and death. This is a point lawmakers must consider when moving forward.
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