The prescription painkiller epidemic has become the latest focus of American lawmakers, but the additional spotlight on this issue in which misguided federal policy has caused to spiral out of control could eventually become the catalyst needed to pull the cannabis plant out of the trenches of total prohibition.
One of the first of many calls to action to be throttled upon federal health officials from Capitol Hill comes from Senator Elizabeth Warren. The federal lawmaker fired off a letter earlier this week to the lead brass at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demanding the agency begin researching marijuana to determine whether it could be used to combat the opioid problem currently sweeping the United States.
The letter, addressed to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, begs the agency to put a tighter leash around the necks of physicians to prevent them from feeding painkillers to patients with such rabid enthusiasm. Warren said that she strongly urges the agency to finalize the CDC guidelines for prescribing painkillers to patients suffering from chronic pain and to get serious about exploring alternative treatments, including marijuana that can be recommended in an attempt to keep the entire nation from joining the junkie jungle.
"I hope that the CDC continues to explore every opportunity and tool available to work with states and other federal agencies on ways to tackle the opioid epidemic and collect information about alternative pain relief options," Warren wrote. "Your agency has produced an enormous amount of scientific and epidemiological data that has helped inform stakeholders on the breadth of this crisis — however there is still much we do not know."
In the letter, Warren pleads with the CDC to join forces with other federal health agencies to study the “effectiveness of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment in states where it is legal,” as well as explore “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.”
It is a lack of marijuana research that continues to provide the upper hand for federal lawmakers wanting to prevent the herb to become a socially accepted medication. As long as cannabis is listed a Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, it is considered a dangerous drug without no medicinal value. This has prevented the scientific community from really digging in and unlocking the true potential the cannabis plant has to offer as a confirmed treatment for a variety of conditions ranging from severe anxiety disorders to cancer.
Although countless attempts have been made to pull the herb out of its current classification and put it into one that would help facilitate research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have refused to let this to happen, supposedly in the interest of health and public safety.
However, there have been a number of reports to surface throughout the past few years suggesting that people are reducing their painkiller consumption with the use of marijuana. What’s more is some have even claimed that participating in their state’s medical marijuana program has helped them emerge from the ashes of hardcore addiction.
Most recently, former NFL legend Jim McMahon revealed that he was able to kick his addiction to narcotic painkillers by replacing pills with medical marijuana.
"They [painkillers] were doing more harm than good. This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain - or thinking about it, anyway," McMahon told The Daily Mail.
Reports from the CDC shows that 44 people die every day as a result of an overdose from prescription painkillers – 47,055 drug overdose deaths total in 2014. Senator Warren’s letter specifies that it will “take hard work on the part of federal, state, and local governments, working together with local law enforcement, medical professionals and members of the community” to make a dent in the opioid epidemic. And she hopes the CDC to “aggressively tackle this issue.”