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The heroin epidemic in America has reached devastating proportions.
The New York Times recently reported that drug deaths are rising faster than ever before. The story claimed that in 2016, between 59,000 and 65,000 people died as a result of a heroin overdose. (Experts are currently unsure of the full total of true overdoses due to the time it takes for an overdose to be officially declared via toxicology tests.)
Heroin overdoses are now the leading killers of Americans under 50. To put that in perspective, one needs to understand exactly how dangerous and widespread the heroin epidemic has become. Consider the following statistics:
- The peak number of deaths by car accidents happened in 1972. Car accidents claimed the lives of roughly 55,000 people that year.
- The peak number of deaths due to HIV happened in 1995. The HIV epidemic claimed a total of approximately 47,000 people that year.
- The peak number of deaths as a result of wrongful use of guns happened in 1993. Peak gun deaths stopped short of 40,000 deaths that year.
- The number of overdose deaths from opioid use increased by almost 20 percent last year. Experts believe that this will continue to increase this year.
- Hep C cases have seen an almost 300 percent rise due to the heroin epidemic. This means that not all deaths involved with heroin addiction will come from overdoses. The actual number of deaths related to heroin is difficult to fully uncover because of how many different factors are at play.
The heroin epidemic is claiming the lives of thousands of people across the country, and it's not looking like it's stopping any time soon. However, many states legalized medical marijuana—and groups in those states claim that weed might be the solution to this epidemic.
Can weed end the heroin epidemic? Here's why medical marijuana may be a way to curb overdoses throughout the country, and what we need to do to help end heroin dependence.
Should weed end the heroin epidemic, it'll most likely be done by preventing people from getting prescribed opioid pain medications.
As the heroin epidemic unfolds, more and more people are beginning to realize that Big Pharma and doctors are partly to blame. Pharmaceutical companies developed opioid pain killers.
They then incentivized doctors to prescribe them for pain relief—and it's becoming increasingly clear that many heroin users became addicted to it as a result.
Everyone knows that opioids are highly addictive, but that still hasn't stopped Big Pharma from pushing them on people. People have openly admitted that they're getting withdrawals from these medications, too. By the time patient prescriptions run out, people end up turning to the streets in order to avoid withdrawal.
Medical marijuana is often prescribed as a way to reduce pain. Marijuana also isn't as addictive as opioids. If states legalized medical marijuana, doctors would be able to prescribe marijuana instead of a highly addictive opioid.
Can weed end the heroin epidemic this way? Well, they say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even so, it would probably take a lot more than just offering medical marijuana to pain sufferers to undercut dope's grip on the country.
CBD Oil for Heroin Withdrawals?
How can weed end the heroin epidemic that's already raging, though? Well, it's not totally certain that it can. However, there are some promising studies that suggest that regular CBD oil use can help people cope with symptoms that come with heroin withdrawal.
If medical marijuana is proven to be a good pain reliever for those going through withdrawals, it's very likely that medical marijuana could be one of the biggest game changers in the fight against opioid addiction. As of right now, New Mexico is currently mulling over the possibility of prescribing cannabis to heroin addicts as a way to encourage heroin cessation.
Even regular cannabis smoking has been linked to better success rates when it comes to kicking opioid addiction. This is partly because cannabis alleviates anxiety as well as the pain that comes with heroin withdrawals.
As of right now, much of the evidence that medical marijuana could help reduce heroin use is anecdotal. If you ask many former addicts the question of "Can weed end the heroin epidemic," they'll tell you that it's quite likely.
There's evidence that legalizing medical marijuana can lead to lower rates of opioid addiction.
In 2014, JAMA released a study that showed that medical marijuana legalization is strongly correlated with lower rates of opioid deaths. States that currently have medical marijuana legalization are also now beginning to see a dip in the number of heroin users as well.
Clearly, there is some benefit to offering medical marijuana as an alternative to opioid-based painkillers. It's just a matter of time before doctors and lawmakers come to this conclusion.
Can weed end the heroin epidemic alone?
Sadly, medical marijuana alone will probably not be enough to end the heroin epidemic. Weed can only do so much in a battle against one of the most addictive drugs ever created.
In order to see heroin deaths decrease, there will probably have to be way more done to help prevent addiction. Things like drug counseling, needle exchanges, and incentives against opioid prescriptions all could help reduce addiction rates. We all know this already, because it's been backed by science and statistics.
There are many things we can say and do to help end the crisis, and there are many questions that need to be answered. But, there's only one real question that needs to be answered right now, if we want to see anything get done.
The real question we should ask is if politicians admit that this work needs to be done—and if they'll admit that legalizing medical marijuana could help end the heroin epidemic killing our nation.