The Opioid Crisis
What is the Opioid Epidemic?
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began a strong marketing campaign to introduce opioids to the medical community. The promise was these new drugs were non-addictive and were a viable option for pain management.
Many doctors were wooed by pharmaceutical reps. Gifting them with free meals, branded office swag, and payment incentives based on sales and speaking fees. These perks were influential to their prescribing of opioids.
Fast-forward 20 years. We now know that all opioids-oxycontin, hydrocodone, and synthetic versions like fentanyl, are highly addictive. 100,000’s of Americans have lost their lives, and those numbers increase each and every year.
What can we do?
States are now suing big pharmaceutical companies like Purdue. The attorney generals who have filed suit claim that the marketing tactics crafted by these companies put profits before people, and are responsible for our public health crisis.
While this is true, states and our communities must be responsible for how they choose to address the consequences of the epidemic.
Harm Reduction Solutions
Clean needles minimize risk of disease contraction
Fentanyl Test Kits
User awareness of the substance they are taking
Access to Naloxone; reverses an overdose
Good Samaritan Laws
Legally protect a witness to an overdose
Drug addiction has many complicated layers. There is no “one-size-fits-all” method to wellness. Since the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis, it should be treated as such.
Treating addicts like criminals does not treat the addiction. The mission of the war on drugs is incredibly detached from reality. A drug-free world will never exist. Non-violent drug offenders make up a significant portion of the US prison population, further contributing to the other American epidemic, mass incarceration.
The perceptions of addicts contribute to the lack of health resources for these individuals. When public minds become open to the fact that addiction is an illness that requires individualized treatment methods, we begin a starting point to humanizing the health crisis.
Communities that have embraced harm reduction measures offer a humane solution to wellness for drug users in the interim.
If you or someone you love are in need of harm reduction resources, The Harm Reduction Coalition can help you connect with a local source.
Cannabis is an Exit-Way Solution
For more than 80 years, there has been a government-cultivated misperception about marijuana being a gateway drug that inevitably leads to a road of wild heroin-fueled sex parties.
However, doctors and scientists are finding that the exact opposite is true.
Three factors about how cannabis engages with opioid receptors are the proof behind this theory.
Dr. Joe Cohen of Holos Health and Journey to Life, a leading cannabis health expert, offers the following explanations as to why cannabis is an effective exit-way solution to opioid addiction.
1. Cannabis amplifies opioids. Cannabis potentiates the effects of opioids, meaning that when someone takes cannabis with opioids, they can immediately cut their dose of opioids in half, and begin the process of removing the opioids from their system.
2. Cannabis relieves withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis also provides relief from the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal such as vomiting, abdominal pain, temperature changes, and tremors.
3. Cannabis protects the brain during withdrawal. Cohen also mentioned a process that kills off brain cells and occurs during opioid withdrawal called glutamate excitotoxicity. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for memory and cognitive function. During withdrawal, exotoxins enter the brain causing high levels of calcium to penetrate cell walls causing cell damage. Cannabis stops this process from happening and protects the brain.
States who have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths.
Solutions to the opioid epidemic are out there. States who have allowed access to medical marijuana have seen a 25% drop in overdose deaths. Our hope is, as the stigma around cannabis is lifted, doctors can begin to prescribe opioid users alternatives like cannabis therapy, leading to elevated quality of life.