This may seem like a big leap, but some people still manage to make it. So we thought maybe we should take a look at both sides of this argument to understand the issue.
The Attorney General for the Trump Administration, Jeff Sessions, consistently comes into conflict with advocates for cannabis in America. His stance has been about the same for as far back as his career in politics, and recent actions by Jeff Sessions have caused a stir with those in support of legalization, whether medical or recreational.
Now, it seems Sessions believes that cannabis use is actually why we have an opioid crisis.
Looking at Opioid Stats
Recently, Jeff Sessions was speaking at the Heritage Foundation to the Reagan Alumni Association this week. As part of the conversation, Sessions did put a lot of focus on cutting prescriptions for opioid painkillers as a critical element to fighting the crisis. So many people who use illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl start with prescription drug abuse. This much has been shown in several studies, such as one from 2017 published in Addictive Behaviors which found:
- 9% of people getting opioid use disorder treatment in 2015 started with prescription drugs
- This is an improvement from 84.7% in 2005
Some would argue that better regulations put into practice over the last several years have helped to curb that trend.
However, Sessions went on to say,
“The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number; they had it as high as 80 percent. We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”
It was that last comment that caught a lot of attention. It wasn’t all that shocking, considering Sessions never been a supporter of cannabis use. Still, some people found this commitment to the gateway drug mentality to be a little out of touch.
So, we should look into the argument from both sides.
Can You Connect Cannabis and Opioids?
A recent paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows Mark Olfson and a research team delves into data concerning the gateway drug concept.
The team uses data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to examine the association between:
- Cannabis use reported in the 2001-2002 survey
- Non-medical use of prescription opioids 3 years later
In relation to the survey the term ‘non-medical use of a prescription opioid’ is defined as using the drug “without a prescription, in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed, or for a reason other than a doctor said you should use them” during the previous 12 months.
Olfson and his group claim that according to the data:
Cannabis users more often ended up using opioids
People who used cannabis in the 12-month period prior to the initial interview were at increased risk of non-medical use of prescription opiates 3 years later.
They even checked the variables, and found this was true even when the data were adjusted to control for:
- Family history variables
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Other substance use disorders
- Mood or anxiety disorders
Those studied who used marijuana were still at higher risk of opioid use.
Increased cannabis use correlated with increased opioid use disorder
According to the researchers, the percentage of people with Incident Prescription Opioid Use Disorder at the second interview increased as the level of cannabis use reported at the first interview increased.
To clarify, Incident Prescription Opioid Use Disorder was defined as use that occurred after the first interview that qualified to be considered opioid use disorder, restricted to people who had no prior lifetime history of opioid use disorder.
So essentially, the people who reported to using more cannabis at the beginning of the study were more likely to show signs of opioid use disorder 3 years later.
But Does Connection Equal Causality?
One thing the authors do acknowledge outright is that the majority of adults who use cannabis do NOT start using or increase use of prescription opioids.
Another thing the researchers acknowledge is that their study isn’t proof that cannabis use causes opioid use. The association of marijuana use with non-medical prescription opioids after 3 years in no way means that marijuana use is proven to actually cause opioid use.
The researchers do have a few ideas though.
Some animal studies seem to have shown that it is possible for cannabis to lead to changes in the brain that make individuals more susceptible to opioid misuse.
Another argument is that there are several non-biological factors that can elevate the risk of opioid use. Those who regularly use marijuana may be more likely to interact with people who have access to opioids.
Correlating Drug Use
Many researchers have actually cautioned that there’s no solid evidence that marijuana use causes harder drug use.
In fact, a lot of experts and advocates argue that while marijuana use can easily correlate with harder drug use, so can alcohol and tobacco.
The first drugs many people ever use are alcohol or tobacco, which are both legal for adults and fairly easy to get. Yet, no one automatically assumes drinking or smoking cigarettes will lead to heroin use. However, if the same data and logic used by Olfson and his group were applied to alcohol and tobacco, we would probably see a huge correlation. So many advocates argue why should cannabis use be treated any different?
A 2002 report by RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center (DPRC) suggests that it is not marijuana use, but individuals’ opportunities and unique propensities to use drugs that determine their risk of initiating hard drugs. The Institute of Medicine came to a similar conclusion to the ‘gateway drug’ concept back in 1999.
So, no evidence thus far has been conclusive, only correlational.
The Anti-Gateway Affect?
There are also those out there that believe marijuana legalization would actually have the anti-gateway affect, meaning studies have suggested there is evidence that access to marijuana actually reduces some opioid use.
This growing body of investigation indicates that medical marijuana legalization, in particular, can lower the number of people misusing opioids. Some insist it is because cannabis can help to treat chronic pain instead of opioids. Others even think access to marijuana would cause people to substitute their alcohol use. However, research in this area is still finite. Now it’s far too early to tell if this would actually be an effective strategy.
There is even a new study from David Powell and Rosalie Pacula of the RAND Corporation and Mireille Jacobson of the University of California Irvine that examines how medical marijuana legalization- particularly in states with the most access- impacts opioid-related deaths. These researchers concluded,
“These findings suggest that broader access to medical marijuana facilitates substitution of marijuana for powerful and addictive opioids.”
So while there are those who would put the data behind marijuana being a big part of the problem, there are those who avidly believe it is actually a huge part of a different strategy to overcome the opioid crisis.
What Can We Do?
Whichever side of this argument you’re on, there needs to be more time and energy put into exploring both perspectives. If the correlation between cannabis and opioids were ever proven to be more than meets the eye, then more needs to be done to make sure that legalization or decriminalization efforts co-exist with addiction treatment and support options.
If medical cannabis is found to be useful to help treat some who otherwise would be at elevated risk of chronic pain issues, opioid use disorder or even opioid-related death, then more should be done to make sure this method of treatment is safely studied and developed.
Either way, we must continue to work toward helping every individual suffering from substance use disorder of any kind. Whether it is marijuana use disorder or opioid use disorder, there should be safe and effective treatment options available.
There should always be resources available to help people who suffer from abuse. Supporting addiction recovery means breaking the stigma and offering holistic and effective solutions. Palm Healthcare Company is here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The elections held this past Tuesday may not have directly addressed the status of marijuana, but voters in multiple states did elect officials who are adamant about making legal marijuana more available.
Next Year in New Jersey
One of those states is New Jersey, who’s outgoing governor is Chris Christie, chairman of the White House commission on opioids.
Last week Democrat Phil Murphy, who made legal marijuana one of the cornerstones of his campaign, won the state over. This creates a radical change for the state. For years Chris Christie has blocked attempts to legalize cannabis, and even maintains his opposition to it while fighting to help the country get a grip on the opioid epidemic.
Phil Murphy has been pretty open about his support for marijuana legalization. According to Forbes, Murphy even talked about it during his primary night victory speech saying,
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,”
“And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”
Apparently, it isn’t just Murphy in the state that is looking forward to pushing this legislation along. The Democratically-controlled state Senate is expecting to bring up legal marijuana as early as next year. In regards to the topic, earlier this year Senate President Stephen Sweeney said,
“We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it.”
Voters in Virginia
Voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia also elected an official who advocates for loosening restrictions on marijuana. Current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession. While it may not be as liberal a stance as Murphy, it is still a big step in a lot of people’s minds. Northam writes,
“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia.”
But it isn’t just about the individuals. Northam also points out the resources going to this issue. He has written to the Virginia State Crime Commission as part of its review of the effects of marijuana decriminalization.
“Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement—enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,”
Again, not that he is pushing for complete legalization, but to stop stiff penalties for those with small amounts of marijuana. Northam also advocates for research into the medicinal uses of marijuana. According to Richmond Times-Dispatch, he has stated,
“As a doctor, I like to make the point to people, over 100 of the medicines that we use on a daily basis come from plants,” he said in an interview Monday. “So I think we need to be open-minded about using marijuana for medical purposes.”
He isn’t alone in Virginia either. Even the Republican state Senate leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. questioned whether or not small amounts of marijuana should remain a crime.
Marijuana in More Areas
But it isn’t just these two offices that indicate there may be more change coming for marijuana policy. In other areas around the country, there are other notable shifts that may dramatically impact marijuana policy.
77% of voters in the college town eliminated fines and court costs for possessing or growing up to 200 grams of marijuana.
In an area that includes Detroit, voters now allow cannabis businesses to operate in more areas and to stay open longer. Michigan is expected to have a marijuana legalization bill on the 2018 ballot.
Lawrence Krasner won the election for District Attorney. Krasner has been outspoken about the benefits of marijuana reform. According to Krasner,
“One of the things we see in other jurisdictions is that, where marijuana is readily available, there’s a 25% reduction in opiate/opioid overdose deaths.”
“So if Philadelphia is looking at 500 opiate/opioid overdose deaths a year, a district attorney, by choosing not to enforce against marijuana usage, can potentially save 125 lives. That’s what a district attorney should exercise his or her discretion to do.”
It seems between lightening the punishments for possession, expanding programs for legal marijuana, and electing officials that will advocate for its use, marijuana may have already seen some real change this November.
What to Remember about Legal Marijuana
It is important to note for anyone who has a history of substance use disorder that the legal status of a substance does not make it safer. You could argue that marijuana is much safer than opioids like prescription drugs or heroin. While marijuana is not as lethal concerning overdose deaths, it still should not ignore the risks.
Marijuana reform has the potential for some positive and negative outcomes. Ultimately voters will have to consider weighing the pros and cons of reform. Either way, it is important to remember that any substance, legal or not, can be addictive. While marijuana may become more accepted on a legal level, it is still unhealthy to abuse this drug. If you find yourself abusing this or any drug it is very important that you seek safe and effective treatment resources.
Because drug abuse is always destructive, marijuana abuse is no exception. If you or someone you love are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please seek help. Regardless of whether a drug is legalized or not, losing control of your use can lead to something much worse. We want to help. You are not alone. Call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.
The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:
- The United States of America
- The United Kingdom
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.
Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.
The Turning Point for America
According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.
Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:
“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”
One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.
GCDP vs War on Drugs
Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.
The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:
“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”
To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction
So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?
Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:
Naloxone Distribution and Training
As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.
Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.
Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.
These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.
Decriminalizing Drugs in America
In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.
The report states:
“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”
With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:
- End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
- Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.
The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.
“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”
We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.
Better Treatment Research
The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.
One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.
Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:
“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”
While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.
Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.
What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?
One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
Despite medical science that reveals that drug addiction has a biological component and should be treated as an illness, Ben Carson believes that drug addiction is due to a lack of “values and principles.” Ben Carson, instead, calls for a return to a morality-based view of drug addiction and believes we should continue the War on Drugs of the past.
Just two weeks ago, Carson did an interview where he stated that he not only wants to continue the war on drugs, he wants to intensify it. Quite a bold statement for Carson during the campaign considering the tone of the rest of the candidates has been on the decriminalization of drugs and emphasizing addiction treatment options.
On opposite end of the spectrum, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders just announced he would be pushing a bill to make marijuana legal on a federal level. He believes that criminalization is ineffective and has not helped drug addiction issues in the United States. Though the War on Drugs of the early 70s may have had good intentions, there is overwhelming evidence that it failed to actually increased drug addiction rates and resulted in mass incarcerations.
Now, Dr. Ben Carson announced that he believes drug addiction has more to do with character than having an illness. Many are surprised by this opinion since Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon and evidence shows that addiction actually alters the way the brain functions on a chemical level. However, Ben Carson on “Face the Nation” Sunday did not blame addiction on biology or physiology, he blamed it on morals.
Dr. Carson told CBS News anchor John Dickerson that there are ” all kinds of addictions and addictions occur in people who are vulnerable who are lacking something in their lives, so we really have to start asking ourselves what have we taken outside of our lives in America?”
He continued on to say that he is not going to throw away his values and principles for the sake of political correctness. When asked about a recent poll that showed 25 percent of New Hampshire voters believe drug addiction is the state’s most serious problem, Carson stated that America must have the determination to continue the war on drugs and not lose focus because opinions that are gaining in popularity:
“What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached, and why are we throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?”
Carson’s comments come after Princeton released findings that rising death rates for middle-aged white population may be due to substance abuse problems. There also had been a sharp rise in suicide rates and drug abuse was cited as being a major reason for the increase.
Heroin-related overdose and death across the U.S. has become a national epidemic. Recently, President Obama issued a memorandum to combat addiction to heroin and other opioids. Obama’s focus is also on treatment and not criminalization and he has attempted to change the focus of drug addiction in the United States. Obama traveled to West Virginia to unveil a series of initiative to combat addiction to heroin and other opioids.
Overall, Ben Carson believes we should not give up on the war on drugs and should push to promote values for those suffering from addiction. What do you think? Drug addiction is a multifaceted illness that can be looked at in various angles. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
Oregon is one of the first states to address the concerns of marijuana legalization answering the debated question: what do you do with someone with a record for something that used to be a crime but now isn’t? With this new policy, anyone with any low-level felony or misdemeanor on their record that’s at least ten years old can wipe their record clean (as long as they have not re-offended). As many as 50,000 people will benefit from this law passed in Oregon.
Oregon is known for its progressive marijuana legislation that spans over the past few decades. Back in 1973, Oregon was the first state in the country to decriminalize low-scale marijuana possession. Now legal experts and marijuana business people are saying that the state is leading the way in creating new laws that would allow people with past marijuana offenses to wipe their slates clean.
In 2016, Oregon will allow more serious felony pot convictions, like growing, to be eligible for record sealing. The law is not restricted to drug offenses. A second law will allow expungement for people who were under 21 at the time of a past conviction.
Citations for marijuana possessions can haunt a person for years preventing them from career opportunities, renting an apartment, loans, and grants. Oregon is one of three states in the United States that allow marijuana use on a recreational level and now this law will give those who were prosecuted for the now legal crime to be able to move on with their lives.
So far, no state has gone further than Oregon on this issue. Even in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, the idea of expunging past records still remain controversial. In states like Colorado, Alaska, Washington and the District of Colombia where recreational marijuana is legalized, similar laws are available yet are still unclear. Oregon’s law will be one of the first structured policy following marijuana reform.
Expungement for pot conviction is gaining attention since the legalization of marijuana has raised questions for those convicted in the past. Years after the arrests, citizens are left with a record that will haunt them for the rest of their life, for getting caught doing something that is legal in many states today.
The expunge center in Oregon elaborated on how significant this law is for those who need it most:
“It really doesn’t matter if you had been arrested on a petty charge. The stigma of having an arrest or conviction record against your name can make it difficult for you to find housing, seek employment opportunities and obtain grants for school…. Regardless of how much you have changed or how many dreams you might have, one single mistake of your past can affect your chances of having a good future.”
Even for those with more serious marijuana crimes who are unable to qualify for expungement or reduce their impact may be qualified to reduce the impact of past criminal convictions. They may be able to reduce the severity of their charges so they are granted access to certain rights.
The law comes very soon after Oregon legalized marijuana recreationally. Time will tell if other states will follow Oregon in also expunging records now the drug is continuously decriminalized and marijuana reform continues to stir debate around the country.
Whether or not you agree with marijuana reform, the fact of the matter is more and more states are legalizing the drug either recreationally, medically or both. The next logical step would be deciding best policy when it comes to addressing those who were criminalized for something legal today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588