In conjunction with the national End Pain, Not Lives campaign, California NORML has issued a report on medical marijuana legalization and the opioid crisis and is conducting a survey on discriminatory practices against patients who use medical cannabis.
The report and survey are part of Cal NORML’s campaign to end discrimination against patients in California who are being denied opioid medications due to their use of medical cannabis. The state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Cal NORML has heard from innumerable pain patients who report they have been able to drastically reduce or eliminate use of prescription opioids by substituting medical cannabis instead. Despite this, many physicians and clinics continue to deny medical cannabis to patients suffering from pain.
“For patients struggling to reduce or eliminate their use of opioids, cannabis is a game-changer,” says Dr. Laurie Vollen, founder of Natural Healing M.D. in Albany, California who has treated hundreds of patients using opioids. “There is no other medicine that I know of that is safer, more accessible, and more effective in reducing opiod use than cannabis.”
In early results from the Cal NORML Medical Cannabis Patients Discrimination survey, 17 percent of patient respondents say they have been denied prescription medications due to their use of medical cannabis, with another 7 percent saying they may have experienced this kind of discrimination. Most often pain doctors are the culprits, by requiring drug testing that picks up cannabis; treatment denial in emergency rooms is also being reported. Also, patients are responding that they must increase their use of other drugs — for pain, sleep or anxiety — when they are unable to use cannabis for chronic pain.
A growing body of scientific studies confirm that cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain, from which an estimated 100 million American suffer. Evidence is mounting that states with medical cannabis laws have lower rates of opioid use and abuse or opioid-related overdose deaths, as well as hospitalizations, traffic fatalities and drug treatment admissions related to opioids.
Excerpts from the Report:
- In January 2017, the National Academy of Science released a major report on cannabis, which concluded that chronic pain is one of the few conditions for which there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” for cannabis’s effectiveness.
- NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, now states on its website that “data suggest that medical cannabis treatment may reduce the dose of opioids required for pain relief” and “medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.”
- The 2016 Centers for Disease Control guidelines on prescribing opioid medications for pain state, “Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear,” the CDC states. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC)… Clinicians should not dismiss patients from care based on a urine drug test result because this could constitute patient abandonment and could have adverse consequences for patient safety.”
- Recently, a study found that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado is associated a 6.5 percent decrease in monthly opioid deaths. Earlier studies have found as much as 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths in states with medical marijuana laws, relative to other states.
- California Congressman Lou Correa has introduced a resolution calling for the VA to “conduct a clinical study comparing the effectiveness of cannabis in treating chronic pain in veterans to help stop the opioid crisis.” Democratic members of the House Committee on Veteran Affairs sent a letter to VA Secretary Shulkin encouraging the VA to engage in medical cannabis research.
- NFL players have begun to advocate for the use of cannabis for pain and head trauma, and the league has reportedly offered to work with the players’ union to study marijuana for pain management. The former commissioner of the NBA and Warriors coach Steve Kerr have also come out in favor of allowing players to use medical cannabis.
- TV Host Dr. Oz recently surprised Fox News commentators by telling them that medical marijuana “may be the exit drug to get us out of the narcotic epidemic,” and has now gone further to state that “I think medical marijuana might offer an option to help prevent you from ever getting opioids in the first place, and maybe help in getting you off of them.” He has started a petition asking the National Institutes of Health to fund more research into medical marijuana as a solution to the opioid crisis, which has gathered over 64,000 signatures.
- The journal Scientific American recently called out Jeff Sessions on his unscientific rhetoric and concluded, “Rolling back protections from federal interference in state legalization laws could worsen the opioid overdose crisis.”
- Conspicuously absent from the Trump administration’s plan to address the opiate crisis is any mention of a role cannabis might play. NORML has launched a campaign to educate the ONDCP Commission about the positive role that cannabis access plays in curtailing opioid abuse.
Submitted by Cal NORML
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