Can Cannabis Help Reduce Drug Overdose Deaths?
Cannabis is safer than many things. Cannabis is safer than alcohol, and is even safer than many household items.
If you get bored, look at some of the labels around your house, especially on cleaning products. Chances are you will see a number of items that carry warnings about potential harm, including death.
No one has ever died from cannabis toxicity in the entire history of humankind. Cannabis' safety compared to other substances is one of the biggest arguments in favor of cannabis reform.
Unfortunately dangerous substances, many of which are legal, are wreaking havoc on America's population.
America is in the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic, with overdose rates for opioids skyrocketing from coast to coast.
Unfortunately many governments feel that in order to address the issue, courts need to hand out harsher sentences to those caught with drugs. That approach has not worked, with decades' worth of evidence out there to back up the claim.
Many cannabis advocates have offered up cannabis reform as a possible solution, but would it actually help?
Record overdose levels
The New York Times recently released a report which detailed how America experienced the greatest overdose rate on record last year.
The numbers are alarming. The report estimated that between 59,000 and 65,000 people overdosed in 2016 in America. Overdose is now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 years old.
A specific breakdown of the cause of the overdoses is not yet available, but many experts believe that pharmaceutical painkillers and heroin make up a lot of the statistic.
It's a truly sad situation that needs to be addressed, but it needs to be addressed in the right way if it's going to work.
Simply throwing people in jail that are caught with drugs is not a viable solution, especially when the penalty involves mandatory sentences.
Can cannabis actually help?
The cannabis plant is a truly remarkable thing. Not only does cannabis have the power to heal, studies also show that it has the ability to reduce people's reliance on other substances.
A study from 2016 concluded that "The treatment of chronic pain with medicinal cannabis in this open-label, prospective cohort resulted in improved pain and functional outcomes, and a significant reduction in opioid use.”
Another study, also from 2016, found that "Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use (n = 118), decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life (45%). This study suggests that many CP patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for CP treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications.”
Yet a third study (from 2017) determined that "Among respondents that regularly used opioids, over three-quarters (76.7%) indicated that they reduced their use since they started medical cannabis.”
Cannabis can absolutely help combat the rise in opioid related overdoses. Can it completely resolve the issue? That may be a stretch, but as the evidence shows, it can certainly contribute significantly to the goal.
The Trump administration is unconvinced
Despite the overwhelming proof that cannabis can help combat the opioid epidemic, members of the Trump administration still feel that cannabis does more harm that good.
In the opinion of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, cannabis provides zero potential to help fight opioid abuse.
"“I’m astonished to hear people suggest we can solve our heroin crisis — have you heard this? — by having more marijuana,” Sessions said back in March. “I mean, how stupid is that? Give me a break."
Jeff Sessions got roasted by cannabis reform advocates, but it doesn't appear to have swayed the Trump administration, which continues to cling to prohibition and push for harsher prison sentences.
We cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic, which history has clearly shown. Statistical data shows that use remains about the same regardless of how much money and resources are thrown at the War on Drugs.
What can cannabis supporters do to help?
One of the biggest things that cannabis supporters can do is share studies and statistical data with elected officials.
Lawmakers have the power to reform cannabis laws and increase access to cannabis, and they need to be encouraged to do so early and often.
Another thing that cannabis supporters can do is share information with people that are looking for help.
By no means am I saying that people need to be peer pressured into using cannabis. What I am saying is that the more people are educated on the subject, the more they will be able to make the educated decision as to whether or not cannabis can help their situation.
Properly addressing the overdose epidemic in America is not going to be easy. It is going to take a multi-faceted approach, one that includes cannabis reform. Cannabis has the ability to help, it just needs to be given a chance!
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Do you know someone that has treated their opioid addiction with cannabis?