With the rise of the opioid crisis and the converse push to legalize substances like cannabis, the use of legal and illegal drugs in America is a topic that has come to head in the last decade. One truth that seems to have come out of this ongoing debate is that people are going to use drugs, it just depends which drugs. Whether the goal is stress relief, recreation, pain management or the suppression of psychological issues, there is always going to be a market for things like caffeine, alcohol, cannabis, opioids, stimulants, and more. One of the ways that we can begin to practically address this relationship between people and their substance of choice is to have an honest discussion about the dangers of our drugs. If we weigh the pros and cons of cannabis against prescription opioids for example—there is a clear winner and an undeniable loser.
Opioid Overdose and Death
Figures from the Centers For Disease Control and and a variety of news publications shed light on just how brutal the opioid crisis has become. According to the CDC, 68 percent of the 70,200 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved the use of an opioid, with approximately 130 Americans dying every day due to opioid overdose.
In 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids was six times higher than in 1999, with figures from the Washington Post indicating that 400,000 people in the United States have died of prescription opioids, fentanyl and heroin from 1999-2017. The starkest difference that exists between the use of cannabis and opioids is lethality. There is a consensus in the global medical literature that there have been no reported cases of marijuana overdose in humans. When taken as a serious medical issue, it is more logical to be concerned with the overdose potential of substances like caffeine, salt, and even water when compared to cannabis. In a study entitled “Emerging Evidence for Cannabis’ Role in Opioid Use Disorder” published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, the authors noted that the “the relative safety profile of cannabis” was a primary reason for pursuing further research.
Cannabis vs Opioids
In addition to the clearly defined lines in safety that exist between the use of opioids and cannabis, there is also statistical evidence that marijuana can play a role in directly combating the crisis. Shortly after cannabis was legalized in Colorado, a study was published in the American Journal of Public Health, which cited a 6 percent decrease in opioid deaths in the following two years. Another compelling study was performed in Michigan for The Journal of Pain, which found that 64 percent of patients in a field of 244 used less opioids to treat their pain and suffered fewer side effects from their medication when given the option of medical marijuana.
Over the last ten years, pharmaceutical corporations and a corrupt faction of physicians have grown rich getting Americans hooked on the drugs that kill the easiest, but also happen to make them the most money. All the while they have unfairly demonized safe, natural pain relief that can be grown in your own backyard, and demonized those who have tried to promote solutions to their gross immorality.