The use of opiates and prescription drugs among Americans has sharply increased over the past 10 years. The level of use has become something of an epidemic. The New York Post even ran a story about a recent super bowl ad for a drug that relieves “Opioid Induced Constipation” as proof that American’s are all high on some kind of legal heroine.
Enter Massachusetts senator and folk legend Elizabeth Warren.
Elizabeth Warren recently did something profound and asked the CDC to research how medical marijuana could potentially help to wean addicted opiate addicts off drugs like vicodin and oxycontin.
Warren recently sent a letter to CDC head Dr. Thomas Friedan, urging them to finalize their guidance to physicians on the dos and don’ts of prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl, and other opiate derived pharmaceuticals.
Warren even went a step further, asking Friedan “to explore every opportunity and tool available to work with states and other federal agencies on ways to tackle the opioid epidemic and collect information about alternative pain relief options.” — Including marijuana.
She also asked Friedan to work with other federal health agencies to investigate how medical marijuana could potentially reduce physician’s reliance on prescription pills, and to research “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.”
Researching marijuana is almost impossible for government agencies because it remains a “schedule 1 controlled substance”, the most restrictive category under current law. This classification is reserved for drugs with “no medically accepted use,” which makes zero sense with the knowledge like this, this, or this.
The legal restrictions on marijuana have made it so difficult for researchers that the centrist Brookings Institute even called for the drug to be reclassified as a schedule 2 drug in a report last October – it’s insane to think that this category includes prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. President Obama has taken executive actions to aid researchers in studying the plant, but the agencies whose help Warren is asking for still face major hurdles.
Despite the legal roadblocks there is some data out there on Warren’s question about how medical cannabis could ease the level of opiate overdose in the US. A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that states who legalized medical marijuana from 1999 to 2010 also saw significantly fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses than researchers had predicted.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops.