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Marijuana instead of opioids?

Letter to the editor

POSTED: February 1, 2018 6:30 p.m.
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Editor: There is an opioid epidemic! At least, that is what the government is telling us. But, the question remains, "Why is there an epidemic?"

The CDC estimates that there are 175 drug overdose deaths a day. Yet, the CDC does not say why there are so many — just that they exist.

Almost every one of these deaths can be contributed to one cause — pain. A person takes one opioid, such as OxyContin, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine or fentanyl, to counter the pain. When that pill doesn’t stop the pain, a person might take a second or third, until they overdose. Or in some cases, a person with chronic pain might take an overdose to commit suicide in order to stop the pain. Although opioids are often prescribed to treat chronic pain, research has not shown them to be very effective and there are many pitfalls to long-term use.

In order to avoid the dangers of opioids, some people take aspirin, thinking aspirin is a safe alternative; but taking a large quantity of aspirin could cause internal bleeding, which could be very serious.

Instead of pushing opioids, which produce high profits, pharmaceutical companies should be developing pain medicine that does not become addictive or cause death if taken in quantity. The government is working on this, but at the rate the government moves, we will not see a solution in our lifetime.

Opioids control pain by attaching to receptors in the central nervous system to decrease pain signals. Tragically for some people, they even suppress respiration. When people are addicted and take large amounts of the opioids, respiratory depression is the major cause of death.

I personally believe that we are seeing more deaths due to opioids because the baby boomers are getting older and reaching the age when they have more chronic pain. Add to that, the number of military personnel returning from combat with severe wounds, and we have a serious problem. Remember, our troops have been in combat since 1991 in the Middle East.

A Canadian medical team has found that three puffs a day of cannabis — better known as marijuana — helps people with chronic nerve pain due to injury or surgery feel less pain and sleep better. The concentration used is lower than that found in marijuana on the street. They have shown that cannabis is an analgesic and has medicinal value.

Georgia’s medical marijuana law only provides protection from prosecution if a qualified patient possesses a legal amount of oil, there is no provision in Georgia law that suggests how a patient might actually obtain medical marijuana. In addition, medical marijuana can be used only for certain ailments.

It’s time for medical marijuana to be readily available in Georgia to all of those who are taking opioids for pain.

Len Calderone


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