Marijuana Vs. Prescription Drugs: What You Need To Know
Published on December 22, 2015
A growing number of patients in the US are turning to marijuana as an alternative to prescription pain killers. The CDC has officially declared prescription drug abuse in the US to be an epidemic, with overdose resulting in more than 44 deaths each day. That's 17,000 deaths per year- and the number continues to rise. As of 2010, an estimated 52 million Americans over the age of 12 use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Deaths caused by prescription drug overdose outnumber deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined. People all over the country are beginning to wonder if marijuana is a safer option.
To date, we still have no recorded deaths related to marijuana overdose- ever. In fact, marijuana legalization may be responsible for a 25% decrease in opiate- related deaths in the 23 states that have passed medical cannabis laws so far. That's a 25% reduction in deaths caused by pain pills, heroin, and morphine. Prescription painkillers also carry a number of adverse side effects which can cause long-term health problems in some patients. The most common side effect of opioid painkillers is chronic constipation, which has been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer and benign neoplasm (a type of slow-growing tumor). A study performed in 2008 lists common symptoms associated with prescription pain killers:
"Common side effects of opioid administration include sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression. Physical dependence and addiction are clinical concerns that may prevent proper prescribing and in turn inadequate pain management. Less common side effects may include delayed gastric emptying, hyperalgesia, immunologic and hormonal dysfunction, muscle rigidity, and myoclonus."
The myth that prescription drugs are safer than marijuana is completely false. Both marijuana and prescription painkillers have potential psychoactive side effects, but the long-term effects of marijuana use appear to be far safer and not at all life-threatening. One study indicates that patients addicted to opiates could experience decreased brain function. Some forms of marijuana, such as cannabidiol (CBD), appear to have no effect on cognitive function at all. For patients suffering from chronic pain, cannabis could offer relief without the negative symptoms of long-term opiate use.
Prescription opiates are derived from the same source as other drugs, such as heroin and morphine. They are highly addictive and frequently abused by teens- 54.2% of pain pills in the US are obtained free from a friend or relative. Some experts link the rise in heroin use to opioid abuse- teens and young adults become more likely to use heroin when pills are unavailable. Many politicians who claim that marijuana is a gateway drug need to consider the reality that opioid painkillers are worse. US citizens make up 5% of the world's population and consume 75% of the world's prescription drugs.
A Canadian study tested marijuana on 215 patients with chronic pain. The participants used marijuana medically for one year under careful supervision. The study found that cannabis patients "had no greater risk than non-users (control group) to experience serious adverse events." The number of people addicted to painkillers is increasing every year and doctors are running out of treatment options. Marijuana could provide a valuable tool for doctors to treat both addiction and pain.
If you live with chronic pain, it's important to consider your treatment options carefully. Doctors frequently overprescribe pain pills, which could result in physical dependence and chronic, life-threatening side effects. If marijuana is an option for you, please give it some consideration. It is less dangerous than opiates and could be equally effective at relieving pain. Addiction to marijuana is less common than addiction to opiates, and current research does not show a need to increase the dosage of cannabis due to tolerance. Pain medication should improve your quality of life, not threaten it. Everyone deserves to make an educated decision about drug use and the research clearly shows that marijuana is a safer option.