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The Importance of Marijuana in the War Against Prescription Opioids

3 months ago

2059  1
Posted on Jan 17, 2019, 7 p.m.

The unfortunate reality is that those who are prescribed medication can easily become reliant on it. According to the CDC, roughly ​two-thirds of the 63,332 people who died​ of drug overdoses in 2016 in the United States were as a result of prescription opioids - and the number is growing. 10 states saw doubled synthetic opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016, with death rates increasing in 21 states total. 

In today’s society, doctors often recommend prescription medication to aid patients and help with pain management. It’s not unlikely for someone to be prescribed an opioid following an accident, surgery or cancer diagnosis in an effort to help relieve symptoms, ranging from inflammation and swelling to anxiety and pain. No matter the reason one begins taking prescription medications, there is a risk of use leading to addiction and, once formed, the habit becomes costly and dangerous.

Unfortunately, the addictive qualities of these prescription drugs have been found to trigger a similar response on the brain and body as heroin​. Prescription drugs, along with a variety of synthetic drugs, are addictive by nature and could potentially lead to loss of life.

Cancer diagnoses in particular are accompanied by severe pain and patients are often prescribed medication to manage any discomfort. In an attempt to reduce pain, patients begin taking these medications and develop a dangerous addiction to the drug that was once meant to help them.

The numbers

The cost of prescription drugs has risen astronomically in recent years. The average American spend approximately of ​$1,112 on prescriptions each year​ - and that number is only expected to grow as the cost of drugs rises. According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, pharmaceutical and biotechnology ​sales revenue rose by over $240 billion​ between 2006 to 2015, and the profit margin for these companies are also rising significantly.

The expense of prescription medication makes it an attractive first choice for pain management for not only pharmaceutical companies, but for some doctors, as well. One doctor’s recent claim to fame was as a result of his excessive prescribing of medication. In July, Dr. Barry Schultz sentenced to serve 157 years in prison as a result of his excessive opioid prescribing. During the investigation, the DEA found that Dr. Schultz had ​prescribed 800,000 pills in 16 months alone​ and was making more than $6,000 every day.


Pain management in the present day

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to manage pain. The 21st century has brought new cancer treatment options and new outlooks on existing treatments, ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to medical marijuana and CBD oil for pain management. The recent legalization and increased acceptance of medical marijuana as a form of treatment is giving cancer patients hope for a less painful tomorrow.

To date in the United States, 10 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, while 33 states have legalized it for medical use. In California, for example, medical marijuana has been legalized for over 20 years. California was the first state to legalize marijuana medicinally in 1996 through the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, and it was legalized for recreational use in 2016.

CBD (short for cannabidiol) is an extract from the hemp plant that helps with a variety of medical conditions, without the intoxicating properties. As a form of marijuana without THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is often the ideal option for patients who want the relief without feeling the high that is often associated with marijuana. The benefits of CBD oil for cancer patients are evident, as it not only offers patients pain relief, but may also ​help combat the disease​.


Although not a cancer, one major breakthrough in favor of medical marijuana is its positive effects on those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease most notably affects motor functions, making it so that those diagnosed have nearly constant tremors. Through the use of medical marijuana​, these symptoms lessen, allowing patients a returned sense of normalcy while performing day-to-day tasks.


For cancers that are ​diagnosed in the painful, later stages​, like mesothelioma, medical marijuana could provide the relief needed during treatment. Although this alternative can’t cure a patient’s illness, it can certainly relieve symptoms including pain, insomnia, nausea and loss of appetite, which can improve quality of life in turn.

The 21st century has opened a number of doors for cancer patients in regards to both pain management and treatment thanks to medical marijuana. ​A 2018 study shows ​that a majority of 237 cancer doctors surveyed are comfortable talking with patients about marijuana, but less than half feel as though they have enough information to advise patients on it medicinally. Although negative connotation coupled with marijuana has yet to disappear completely, opinions are changing and acceptance is expanding worldwide.

Article written by/courtesy of:

Lauren Eaten

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