The opioid crisis is one of those political buzz phrases that public figures bring up to incense a crowd in an inevitable cheer of support. What kind of audience doesn’t want their country to experience a shockingly high number of drug overdoses. Especially Americans who only ever thought overdoses happen in back alleys, not that well-to-do citizens could experience serious addiction brought on by a medical prescription. Instead of drugged out skinny youths, regular middle aged people suffer from serious painkiller dependency leading to symptomatic of pharmaceutical pressure. The opioid crisis has only gotten worse over time, and the holistic hippie within the educated millennial wonders if these overdoses could be helped, or if they ever could have been avoided, if cannabis had been considered by the western medical community.
In 2014, drug overdoses spiked to a steady climb, hitting over 30,000 yearly by 2017. Political groups disagree with methods over how to best deal with this, and where to allocate funding, only agreeing that this is a serious problem that needs solving. Ancient healers and modern cannabis enthusiasts alike have long touted the medicinal effects of cannabis, and have used it as a painkiller. Perhaps if modern medicine had not been so susceptible to the corruption of prohibition of a sustainable, useful plant for its healing properties, then maybe we would not be in the midst current opioid crisis.
Further disheartening is the findings of the 2018 Society for the Study of Addiction that there is simply not enough evidence for replacing more harmful substances with cannabis, despite the strong possibility of its potential, which they also cite. They note that alcohol only increases the respiratory dangers during overdose, and is frequently used with opioids. Again, another substance which could be replace by cannabis for which we have not enough evidence to support. Alcohol is present in half or more of all overdoses, and perhaps a more pressing cultural issue could be the dependence on alcohol compared to cannabis. On a hopeful note, drug users who chose to include cannabis with their methadone treatments experienced less severe withdrawal. Without the proper evidence to support these findings, and the recognition of medical marijuana’s powerful effects, the substantiation by the scientific community at large, and legal acceptance by the government, which would impact the cultural mainstream acceptance. Cannabis has never caused our systems to shut down and created a heartbreaking addiction that throws individual’s lives into disarray, or even end them entirely. Yasmin L. Hurd is one researcher who believes that an epidemic on the scale of the one we are facing requires an entire paradigm shift, and that moving the country’s attitude about “weed” toward a perspective of medical cannabidiol as opioid abuse treatment is the way.
Changing an entire paradigm doesn’t just require constant action, like writing your representatives to support funding for research to support this cause, but raising awareness and talking to the people you interact with everyday. The commonness of this epidemic means that you probably know someone affected, and impressing the importance of alternatives that may not have been presented to victims is an important step in the right direction.