Medical Marijuana: Helping to Fight Opioid Addiction
Prescription drug abuse has been defined as an epidemic in the United States by the CDC. An epidemic is defined as “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time”. Addiction to opioid based pain relievers has been an issue for hundreds of years, long before we began tracking statistics to compare more recent years to. Long before we even knew what drug addiction was.
Common Opioid Medications and An Alarming Death Rate Due to Addiction
Over 1/3 of the United States population live with chronic or acute pain on a daily basis. Opioid based pharmaceuticals are one of the most prescribed medications to help. Opioid based pharmaceuticals include codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Dilaudid, Demerol, Methadose, Morphine, Oxycodone,, Percocet, Roxicet and more. These medications are used to treat pain associated with injuries, medical conditions and dental procedures among many more.
According to the CDC, “Every day 44 people in the U.S. die from overdose of prescription painkillers, and many more become addicted.” That is a very alarming number especially if you look at that number of the course of a year. On average over 16,000 individuals die every year due to prescription pharmaceutical medications.
Alarming Statistics Through the Years
According to www.drugfreeworld.org “Of the 22,400 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2005, opioid painkillers were the most commonly found drug, accounting for 38.2% of these deaths.
According to government data released in 2007, approximately 1.7 million individuals over the age of 12 in the U.S. either abused prescription pain relievers or were addicted to pharmaceutical pain relievers in 2007.
In 2010 it was reported that among women there were four times more deaths from prescription pain relievers than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined. That means that 4 times more people died from something that can be prescribed by almost any doctor than what they did from illegal and illicit drug use of heroin and cocaine combined.
A report from the CDC states that the number of female lives lost to opioid painkillers rose over 415% between the years of 1999 and 2010. In 2010, 6,631 women died due to opioid pain reliever overdose. This is a very large increase to the 1,287 women who lost their lives to opioid painkiller overdose in 1999.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 48 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for reasons they were not prescribed for within their lifetimes.
How Marijuana is Fighting the War on Opioid Drug Addiction
In a report released earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, showed that the states that had Medical Marijuana dispensaries saw a decrease in the number of individuals seeking rehab and treatment for opioid addiction. Data was collected from all 50 states on the amount of opioid based pharmaceuticals prescribed. While the states that have dispensaries for marijuana saw the same avg of prescriptions as states that do not have dispensaries, there was a 15-16% decrease in opioid addiction and overdose admissions to rehabilitation centers. States without marijuana dispensaries did not see the same decrease. This would imply that individuals are seeking out legal marijuana as an alternative to illegal opioid painkillers through the black market.
Let Us Look at the Statistics Again and Count the Number of Lives that are Being Saved
The average number of deaths per prescription pharmaceutical medications is 16,000. If all 50 states had legal marijuana dispensaries and this decrease was seen across the nation, that would be over 2,500 lives saved every year by providing legal access to a safe alternative to this horrible addiction. That is 2,500 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that will get to spend time they otherwise would not have with their family and friends, pursuing the life they were meant to live. Shouldn’t everyone have access to this not just some?
This is Just One of Many Medical Benefits
In recent studies there have been many breakthroughs on the benefits of medical marijuana. There have been studies that show CBDs can help promote bone health and growth. Marijuana has been shown to help the spread of cancer cells. Our military men and women who suffer from PTSD are also seeking out safe alternatives after being overmedicated at no avail for relief by physicians through pharmaceuticals and are speaking out to how in some cases it has saved their lives from the unthinkable. It has even allowed one child to speak for the first time ever. These are some amazing things for one single plant to be able to address. This is just the tip of the iceberg on the breakthroughs that we have seen and will see over the coming years for medical marijuana.