The abuse of opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, caused scores of emergency room visits across the United States amounting to 18,893 overdose deaths in 2014 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by CDC in December 2015 reports an alarming 14 percent increase of opioid overdose deaths in the previous year compared with the number of deaths due to abuse of opioids and related prescription painkillers in 2013.
Opioids are generally used to manage pain which millions of Americans suffer from. Long-term administration of opioids for treatment of acute pain has given way to addiction and dependence on various prescription painkillers. With deaths due to opioid overdoses assuming epidemic proportions in the state, it is left to the policymakers, researchers and the government to look for alternate methods for treatment of chronic pain.
“There is no substantial evidence for maintenance of pain relief or improved function over long periods of time without incurring serious risk of overdose, dependence or addiction,” wrote neurologist Dr. Gary M. Franklin, in his position paper titled “Opioids for chronic noncancer pain,” published by American Academy of Neurology in 2014.
Government’s response to crisis
The problem prompted President Barack Obama to refer to opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic in his final State of the Union address on January 12. “I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like … helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse,” he said. The President’s address on the issue came in the wake of latest federal data revealing that of the nearly 47,000 drug-related deaths in 2014, two-thirds were opioid-related.
The same month, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the launch of a new Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES 2.0, to curtail the prescription drug abuse in the state. CURES 2.0 will allow medical practitioners and pharmacists to more effectively flag at-risk patients and curb opioid abuse. California took the lead owing to the steady rise in prescription drug abuse deaths over the last decade.
Should medical marijuana laws be adopted to curb opioid abuse?
People looking for a high take an overdose of opioids as their drug tolerance level gradually increases, often resulting in accidental deaths or suicides. Research shows that states with the highest prescription rates also report of highest usage of narcotics. Questions are being raised whether the authorities can’t find an alternate method for treating unrelenting and consistent pain instead of using opioids. While 23 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the use of medical marijuana to put a stop to opioid use for treatment of pain, there are others who are yet to decriminalize and make its use legal.
A working paper based on a research conducted by the RAND Bing Center for Health Economics in 2015 said, “If medical marijuana laws facilitate the substitution of marijuana for powerful and addictive pain relievers, a potential overlooked positive impact of these laws may be a reduction in the harms associated with opioid pain relievers. We study the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use. Based on standard differences-in-differences models, event study analyses, and synthetic control models, we find that states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths.”
A study – Profiles of medicinal cannabis patients attending compassion centers in Rhode Island, published in US National Library of Medicine in 2015 – revealed that most participants in the research report that medicinal cannabis improves their pain symptomology, and are interested in alternative treatment options to opioid-based treatment regimens.
In a write-up, titled “Prescribing medical cannabis in Canada: Are we being too cautious?,” published by the Journal of the Canadian Public Health Association, researchers argue that cannabinoids are being held unfairly to higher standards compared to other pharmaceutical drugs, even after research has demonstrated that cannabis offers undeniable pain-relieving benefits.
A study, “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010,” published online on The JAMA Network in 2014 revealed that states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate and concluded that medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.
Making policies and implementing them takes time, but an opioid addict might not have so much time. If you realize that such a problem exists in your loved, it’s time to seek medical intervention immediately. Help is available around you.
You can contact the Prescription Drug Addiction Help for certified medical help. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-623-3847 or chat online with our specialist to learn more about the best treatment options in your area. Our team of ardent professionals will surely find a way to help you on your road to recovery.