Recent Study: Huge Opioid Prescription Abuse Problem
3 years ago
Opioids are currently some of the most diagnosed drugs in America. A powerful class of medications meant to treat various types of chronic pain, opioids may seem like a miracle drug. Unfortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. While opioids are effective at knocking out pain, they're also some of the most highly addictive and deadly medications currently available to American consumers. In fact, opioid medications are so dangerous that they accounted for upwards of 16,000 deaths in 2009 alone. Because of these horrifying outcomes and the ever-increasing rates of opioid prescriptions, American health professionals and consumers alike are on the lookout for safer, less addictive alternatives.
The Opioid Addiction Problem
Recently, Castlight Health released a report titled "The Opioid Crisis in America's Workforce" that reveals some startling new insights into the scope of the opioid addiction problem. Using aggregated data from 1 million anonymized Americans, the researchers found that 32 percent of all opioid prescriptions in America are being abused. The report also found that 4.5 percent of people who have a current opioid prescription are abusing it, and that these people cost American employers an average as twice as much (approximately \$19,450 annually) in medical expense costs as their opioid-free counterparts. In addition, baby boomers are nearly four times as likely to suffer from opioid abuse and addiction as millennials, and patients who live in lower-income areas are twice as likely to suffer from opioid abuse as individuals who live in higher-income areas.
While the results of the Castlight report are startling, they're not news to health professionals. The opioid crisis has been ballooning for years, and it has recently gotten so bad that the CDC has declared it a public health crisis. Because of the dangerous side effects and highly addictive nature of opioid medications, health officials and consumers everywhere are actively searching for better alternatives.
Cannabis: A Better Way
In an attempt to mitigate the dangerous effects of opioid over-prescription, abuse and addiction, many people are turning to cannabis. In addition to the fact that cannabis has a long, demonstrable history of being used to treat chronic pain, dozens of studies (such as this 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs) have found that cannabis offers fewer side effects than opioids and provides more therapeutic benefits than synthetic medication. Recently, prominent politicians such as Elizabeth Warren have been petitioning the CDC to consider medical cannabis as a supplement to or alternative for opioid pain medications, and states like Massachusetts have been using cannabis to treat patients suffering from chronic pain and opioid addiction. Recently, one clinic in Massachusetts used medical cannabis to treat 80 chronic pain sufferers who were addicted to opioid medication. Within a month of treatment, 75 percent of the patients had given up their opioid medication completely and the vast majority reported less pain. Even if cannabis doesn't entirely replace opioid medication in the near future, it's clear that cannabinoids have a synergistic effect that can help decrease pain while also mitigating the need for high levels of opioid medications.
While the solution to the opioid addiction crisis isn't cut-and-dry, it's clear that cannabis is a safe, effective alternative that can treat chronic pain while also preserving the health and well-being of patients.