The United States has long had an escalating problem on its hands with the rise of the prescription painkiller phenomenon. However, as a counter to this rising epidemic a new movement has taken a foothold in states that allow recreational marijuana sales and conversely the number of prescriptions deaths has taken a plunge.
Deaths associated with Oxycontin and Vicodin have nearly tripled since 1991, and on average 46 people die daily within the United States. Aside from these grim figures there lies an uncharacteristic disparity among the 13 states that approved legislation allowing for recreational and medicinal marijuana use between 1999 and 2010, and in those states a 25 percent reduction in painkiller deaths.
These numbers shed light on the efficacy of marijuana as a safe and effective holistic treatment for pain. The most encouraging of treating pain with marijuana is that it is far less toxic than the mainstream allopathic alternatives and it’s virtually impossible to die from an overdose.
There are no shortage of opponents of the idea of marijuana having anything to do with the reduction of painkiller overdoses. The Chief Medical Officer at the Phoenix House, Dr. Andrew Kolodny thinks these numbers can be attributed to the more progressive stance surrounding the medical culture of addiction. He also contends that marijuana isn’t really even being widely prescribed by doctors as an effective substitute, explaining that, “You don’t have primary care doctors in these states prescribing marijuana instead of Vicodin.”
He attributes this reduction in painkilling episodes to the fact that these states in which marijuana is legal are more likely to offer programs and treatment for addiction management than it having anything to do with marijuana specifically.
Incidentally, you also have pharmaceutical corporate interests looking to bring innovative solutions to the table by creating medicines which are more difficult to overdose from. One such business is Egalet Corporation, which specializes in making potent pain medication that has failsafe technology to prevent misuse and accidental deaths.
The President of Egalet, Robert Radei goes on record as saying that he, “was really intrigued with the magnitude of the problem of prescription drug misuse,” and that Egalet has a “unique technology” for stopping addiction before it can start.
Radie believes many people simply fall victim to unintended consequences of misuse of the applications of their medicine, resulting in overdose. Sometimes something as simple as chewing medications rather than swallowing can be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Little subtle and seemingly indiscernible elements like this can be the difference between life and death in many cases. As a byproduct of this void in the marketplace, the company formulates pills with safety seals preventing them chopped into powder and ingested all at once. Similarly if someone is trying to inject them via liquid intravenously they congeal into a gummy resinous substance.
Egalet flagship products that fall under this umbrella are SPRIX , OXAYDO, and ARYMO which have since been submitted for FDA approval.
Despite our own personal biases and views on the subject the issue deserves an honest dialogue and open discussion. One thing is for certain, at least from anecdotal evidence, that marijuana can significantly mitigate the intensity and severity of withdrawals from pain medication. This may be one reason among many others that marijuana legislation is now on the ballot of 20 more states ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Medical marijuana is now no longer a harbinger of the future but it is here front and center and deserves a fair and impartial assessment by the leading medical authorities and physicians.