Opiate addiction is a large and growing problem in America. Opiates come in many forms but most are introduced to them in the form of legal prescription pain medication. While opiate pain medication is an essential to tool for doctors treating severe pain and many sufferers of debilitating chronic pain need them just to get through the day, they are highly addictive and dangerous. As Dr. Jack D’Angelo explains here, doctors have been told to treat pain as a vital sign. Since opiates are extremely effective pain relievers doctors used to prescribe them quite liberally.
Prescription rates for opiates have dropped significantly at the urging of prominent institutions and regulatory bodies. While this massive change in prescribing habits may have greatly limited access to legal opiates, it tragically coincided with a flood of cheap heroin, a dangerously powerful illegal opiate. As users moved from the regulated to the black market for opiates, overdose deaths surged. Today an average of 78 people die every day in the US from opiate overdoses.
As communities struggle to find solutions to this disastrous problem this groundbreaking study offers an important clue. Researchers found that states that have implemented medical cannabis programs saw significantly lower rates of opiate overdose. According to the study “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate.” Further, they found that “[Medical cannabis access] laws were associated with a lower rate of overdose mortality that generally strengthened over time.” Meaning that not only do medical cannabis states experience lower overdose deaths they experience even fewer overdose deaths each year the law is in place. Simply put: access to medical cannabis saves lives.
While the study could not conclusively explain the correlation between medical cannabis laws and fewer opiate overdoses, doctors who have advised CITIVA have offered useful insights. In many cases of mild to moderate pain, which are at times treated with low dose opiates, can be effectively treated with cannabis. Severe pain sufferers who require opiates often use lower doses (especially at bedtime) when used in conjunction with medical cannabis. Also, for those already suffering from severe addiction, cannabis is extremely effective at treating symptoms of withdrawal making it easier for addicts to stick to a detox program.