Marijuana May be the Answer to Our Painkiller Crisis

Elizabeth Lai, Mercer University College of Pharmacy 2016

Prescription painkiller use correlates with the illegality of medical marijuana. States with the most painkiller prescriptions per 100 people generally haven’t decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes.

A very small study suggests benefits of using marijuana in conjunction with opioid therapy for chronic pain. Patients managed initially with only opioids experienced a decrease in pain when researchers added marijuana to their treatment regimen.

Even states that have decriminalized medical marijuana experience problems related to opioid use and abuse. Crises have emerged in states like Massachusetts and Vermont. In attempt to resolve the emergency in Massachusetts, $20 million has been dedicated to improve the availability and effectiveness of treatment programs, prescription monitoring programs, and assessment centers to help those with a drug abuse or addiction problem.

Ultimately, prescribers have the authority to prevent prescription drug abuse, but a full-scale restriction on prescription painkillers will only make it difficult for providers to manage very real pain. Perhaps it’s time for us to give them the authority to explore alternatives.

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