Today is overdose awareness day. As America faces an opioid epidemic claiming thousands of lives, it’s important to remember safer alternatives to life-threatening opiate painkillers and illicit drugs.
Drug overdose deaths in the United States have more than tripled since 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2015, opioids (included prescription painkillers and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people. In 2016, more than 59,000 people died from drug overdoses. According to the New York Times, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. The accumulation of evidence suggests that it’s only getting worse this year. Not only that, there has been an uptick in hepatitis C infections, due to sharing dirty needles to inject drugs like heroin.
Nonetheless, opioids are still being prescribed at alarmingly high rates. Patients are either getting hooked on prescription painkillers, or when their prescription is up or they can’t afford them anymore, they turn to black market heroin.
Still, there’s hope. States with medical marijuana programs have far fewer opioid overdose deaths than states where weed is totally prohibited. One study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 found that medical marijuana states had 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than other states.
Meanwhile, UC San Diego researched looking at hospital data from 1997 to 2014 in 27 states, including nine which legalized medical marijuana, found that the hospitalization rates for patients who abused painkillers dropped 23 percent in medical marijuana state. The study also indicated that opioid overdose deaths dropped 13 percent in hospitals in states where weed was legal.
A number of cannabis companies now are aiming to formulate medicines to help manage pain and replace opioids. AXIM Biotechnologies, for instance, is focused on using cannabinoids to help treat opioid addiction, while the proliferation of the cannabis industry more generally has made a number of diverse treatment options available — tinctures, salves, capsules, medicated patches, high CBD strains, meticulously bred indicas for pain management, and more.
Even the High Sobriety drug treatment center in Los Angeles uses cannabis as an “exit drug,” helping opioid addicted patients ween of dangerous painkillers or heroin. The main idea is that cannabis doesn’t kill. There have been zero fatal overdoses from cannabis in all of history — it’s literally impossible to die from too much weed.