U.S.: Sen. Elizabeth Warren Urges Investigating Marijuana As Alternative To Pain Pills
By Steve Elliott
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this week asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research how marijuana might help curb the opioid epidemic in America.
The U.S. is the largest consumer of prescription painkillers in the world, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Even though Americans are just 5 percent of the global population, they gobble 75 percent of the planet's opioid medications.
Warren asked the CDC to conduct studies about alternatives to pain relief drugs, such as marijuana, reports Jackie Salo at International Business Times
In a letter sent Monday to CDC head Dr. Thomas Friedan, Warren urged the agency to finalize its guidance to doctors on prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl, and other pharmaceutical opioid painkillers, reports Alan Pyke at Think Progress.
In the letter, Warren mentioned the struggle her constituents in Massachusetts have faced with painkiller abuse. She said there were almost 1,100 confirmed cases of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts in 2014, which was a 65 percent increase from 2012.
“I continue to hear stories from constituents across Massachusetts affected by this crisis — parents fighting for their kids, doctors fighting for their patients, and communities fighting for each other,” Warren said.
Warren went further, asking Friedan "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.” Those alternatives should include medicinal cannabis, Warren wrote.
The Senator from Massachusetts went on to ask Friedan to collaborate with other federal agencies to investigate how medical marijuana is or isn’t working to reduce reliance on highly addictive, often deadly prescription pain pills, and to research “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.”
Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the most restrictive category possible, and considered equally dangerous to heroin and LSD (methamphetamine and cocaine both rate only Schedule II, for goodness' sakes). This imposes restrains on research, even though the Obama Administration has taken executive actions to make it easier for non-governmental researchers to study weed.
A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that states which legalized medical marijuana from 1999 to 2010 saw significantly fewer deaths from opioid overdoses in that time than researchers had predicted.
American doctors, with plenty of encouragement from Big Pharma, are prescribing twice as many opioid painkillers as they were just 10 years ago, according to Science Daily.
Photo: Elizabeth Warren Wiki