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Opioids vs. Pot

Story by WBGZ Radio

With opioid addiction affecting counties all across Illinois, some groups are suggesting that cannabis can help address the issue.

 

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health showing the change in opioid or heroin overdose-related hospitalizations from 2010 to 2015 indicates half of Illinois’ counties had an increase. Twenty-two counties saw an increase of more than 100 percent.

 

IDPH said Illinois was one of 14 states with statistically significant increases in overall drug overdose deaths between 2013 and 2014. The overdose rate is 13.1 per 100,000 residents, which puts the state at 35th highest.

 

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American Psychological Association CEO Dr. Arthur Evans said there isn’t enough data to show how medical cannabis could curb opioid addiction.

 

Instead, Evans said, “We know, for example that using medications like methadone, using medications like Buprenorphine, even naltrexone can be very effective at treating opioid addiction.”

 

However, Evans said effective prescriptions need to be tied to something else.

 

“We need psychosocial intervention,” Evans said. “We need people who are trained in psychology and social work and psychiatry to also work with people in addition to the medication that they’re getting.”

 

Marijuana Policy Project Legislative Counsel Chris Lindsey said there are studies that show states with medical cannabis have fewer numbers of opioid-related issues.

 

“It’s the experience of a lot of people who are patients that if medical cannabis is available,” Lindsey said, “it is often preferred to keeping up with a prescription.”

 

One study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, titled “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States 1999-2010,” concludes “Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. Further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.”

 

Lindsey said more studies are also needed on cannabis’ medical potential, but the ability for such studies is frustrated by federal regulations.

 

Ultimately, Lindsey said, the issue comes down to giving doctors and patients options.

 

“Shouldn’t doctors be able to say, ‘this is a good candidate for medical cannabis and why can’t we do that without placing this person at risk or placing my own practice at risk?’ ” he said.

 

Illinois’ medical cannabis program doesn’t include opioid addiction as a qualifying condition, but it does include several extreme pain conditions like fibromyalgia to be treated with cannabis.









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