Statistics that have been gathered since 1999 show that fewer people died of opiate overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Given the current epidemic of prescription opiate addiction and dependence that is sweeping the country, these statistics prove with little doubt that marijuana has positive effects with few or no corollary problems when it is used to treat chronic pain.
Since at least the early 2000’s, the number of prescriptions for opiate painkillers in the United States has skyrocketed. Those painkillers are typically combinations of an over-the-counter analgesic, such as acetaminophen, and opiate-derived products such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. Opiate painkillers are effective to alleviate post-surgical pain or pain associated with traumatic injuries, but individuals who use these products quickly become psychologically addicted or physically dependent upon them. Recognizing these addiction dangers, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently elevated opiate painkillers to a Schedule 2 drug, which makes them more difficult to obtain even with a prescription. This action has the regrettable side effect of forcing individuals who have become addicted to opiates to seek illegal substitutes, such as heroin, to feed their addictions, which in turn is leading to an increase in deaths due to heroin overdoses.
Thirteen states legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes between 1999 and 2000. Physicians in those states and other states that subsequently legalized medical marijuana have started prescribing it as a viable substitute to opiates for treatment of chronic pain. Marijuana is not generally considered to be either addictive or deadly, and anecdotal reports from individuals who suffer from chronic pain indicate that medicinal marijuana is equally effective in treating pain when compared to hydrocodone or oxycodone products.
On average, more than 100 people in the United States die every day from drug overdoses. The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that almost 36 million Americans abuse opioids. All of those opioid abusers are at a substantial risk of overdose and death, particularly if their opioid dependence has pushed them toward heroin addiction. A staggering number of those individuals could be saved if states adopted a more progressive attitude toward medical marijuana and its positive effects.
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