As is usually the case after a mass shooting, a few Americans are decrying the senseless, seemingly planned, deaths that are piling up in increasingly frightening numbers. However numerous the number of senseless gun deaths in structurally violent America are, they pale in comparison to another seemingly planned effort to kill off American citizens. The biggest killer of Americans is not guns, automobile accidents, or even suicides; it is prescription pain killers by an incredibly large margin.
One might think that the course of wisdom is immediately addressing what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls a deadly epidemic of prescription pain misuse, but that would mean the pharmaceutical industry would experience diminished profits. So what does the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) do at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry? It allowed for a dangerously massive increase in production of a highly-addictive and deadly opioid like Oxycontin; and it has been increasing drastically throughout the medical marijuana era. If the DEA had been paying any heed to the mountain of medical research by experts in managing pain, it would have learned that what Americans in pain need most is not more prescription pain killers, but better access to medicinal marijuana; that common weed that is empirically proven to reduce opioid use and save countless thousands of Americans’ lives every year.
There was yet another very comprehensive, and long-term, study published in “The Journal of Pain” that revealed medicinal marijuana used for chronic pain not only reduces prescription pain medication use, it is an incredibly safe and effective treatment alternative with no adverse side effects like opioid pain relievers. The study’s researchers reported that cannabis users reported less pain, better overall moods, and universally had no increased risk of adverse effects compared to the control group. In fact, the study revealed that the pot smokers’ cognitive functions such as memory improved. It is not the kind of study the pharmaceutical industry will allow to be conducted in America precisely because the results are anathema to a highly-profitable industry unbothered that its product is the source of immeasurable and unnecessary American citizens’ deaths.
The researchers at McGill University in Montreal followed 215 pot-smokers who used about 2.5 grams of the weed daily, as well as 216 non-smokers over the course of four years between 2004 and 2008, including a one-year follow-up study. All of the subjects were tested for lung functions, underwent daily blood tests, and suffered through very comprehensive cognitive ability tests.
There was another study released in July of this year that produced the same results as the one in Montreal, and was only reported by the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) study was conducted by three researchers with the RAND corporation, NBER, and the University of California at Irvine. According to the conservative think tank’s report, in 2010 prescription opioid use caused 16,651 Americans to die that represented over 60% of all drug overdose deaths; exceeding overdose deaths from both heroin and cocaine combined. Over 16,000 lives are still being lost annually due to prescription opioids right up until today. Hospital emergency departments reported that in 2011 alone, emergency opioid related emergency room visits more than doubled for a total of 1.24 million visits involving the non-medical and medical use of prescription pain relievers in 2011. It is little wonder the CDC consider the over and misuse of prescription opioids an “epidemic.”
One person who made news last week by lying about medicinal marijuana and claiming her opposition to making the weed more widely accessible to treat PTSD was borne of “losing a daughter to drug addiction” is Republican liar and presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Fiorina’s step-daughter did not die from using marijuana; she died from prescription drug and alcohol abuse and struggles with bulimia. Perhaps if Ms. Fiorina and her step-daughter were even remotely aware of numerous reports and surveys of medical marijuana patients demonstrating that they were able to drastically reduce, and often eliminate, their need for prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin, or Percocet that are extremely dangerous and highly addictive, Lori Fiorina would be alive today. She certainly would not have struggled with bulimia if she used medicinal cannabis.
Fiorina obviously is also ignorant that one of the primary factors driving the current heroin epidemic is people whose Oxycontin prescriptions lapse leading them to buy a $5 bag of heroin from drug dealers instead of going through the significant amount of ‘hassle and expense’ to procure more Oxycontin; one of the most addictive and popular prescription opioids next to every doctor’s “cure all” Vicodin. No-one should believe for a second that opioid overdoses are solely from non-prescribed use or addicts “doctor shopping.” Over 60 percent of “all opioid overdoses occur in people prescribed the drugs by a single physician for ‘legitimate’ reasons.”
A group of researchers analyzing medical marijuana laws, and 10 years’ worth of death certificates from all 50 states discovered that compassionate states allowing medicinal marijuana use had a 25 percent lower opioid overdose death rate than barbaric states where medical weed remained illegal. According to David Hador, Medical Consultant for GW Pharmaceuticals, “Scientists have known for many years that the major active ingredients in cannabis medicines, cannabinoids, are potent pain relievers, and that they act synergistically with opiates to increase the degree of pain relief. The addition of cannabis medicines to therapeutic regimens can reduce the need for opiates by 50 percent or more in most patients, while also reducing side effects that opiates commonly produce.”
One might think that with a deadly ‘epidemic’ of prescription opioid pain relievers claiming more American lives than gun homicides, suicides, and automobile accidents every year that there would be a monumental drive to make medicinal marijuana legal across America. However, for the same reason there is no willingness among politicians to restrict the number of guns, and gun homicides, the pharmaceutical industry is not about to allow Americans to use a more effective, and incredibly safer, pain reliever because they are not manufacturing it and putting it in pill form to increase their profits.
This column often comments that marijuana is probably not a “miracle drug” and it certainly is not for everyone, but empirical data finally being revealed to Americans makes a case that marijuana is, if not a miracle drug, a highly-effective substance available to treat a wide range of infirmities, cancers, and afflictions due to injury. Now that another study proves it reduces the need for prescription opioid pain relievers, and can prevent thousands of American deaths every year, the fact that it is not legal from medicinal use in all 50 states means one of two things. Either the pharmaceutical industry is lobbying harder than ever to keep Americans addicted and corporations ultra-profitable, or like their Republican facilitators they just like the idea of killing Americans in pain.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.