Legal medical cannabis has come a long way since California first legalized it in 1996. Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia allow cannabis to be used medically in some form with additional states on the brink, and medical cannabis enjoys an 80% approval rating in swing states. The list of conditions alleviated by cannabis is growing as more research is done on the plant and its effects, and one of the most prevalent uses is treatment of pain. For both chronic and acute pain medical cannabis is a safer alternative to current prescription painkillers.
The Center for Disease Control recently reported that heroin use has increased nearly 63%, largely because of misuse of prescription drugs. CDC Director Tom Frieden stated, "They are addicted to prescription opiates because they are essentially the same chemical with the same effect on the brain as heroin,” and that, "Heroin costs roughly 5 times less than prescription opiates on the street." While studies are now coming out disproving the long-held misconception of marijuana as a gateway drug, it’s becoming clear that prescription medications like codeine, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet and others are leading forces in what is becoming an epidemic of heroin abuse in the United States.
While tests show that it is virtually impossible to overdose from cannabis, the CDC report also stated that heroin deaths have nearly quadrupled in the last ten years with deaths from prescription painkillers rising even higher than that. Meanwhile, there have been no recorded cases in which marijuana alone has been the cause of death, and in states with medical cannabis legislation on the books deaths due to overdose of prescription medication has been shown to drop by up to 25%.
Americans consume 80% of the world’s opioid pain relievers, substances that have been shown to be dangerous and addictive, and that lead to even more dangerous substances like heroin. Cannabis, on the other hand, is being shown more and more every day to have real medical applications, and is being recognized by individual citizens and state governments as a safe alternative to prescription opiates. If Americans are going to be the most medicated citizens in the world when in comes to pain then we owe it to ourselves to make responsible choices with our medications. In the realm of pain relief the responsible choice is medical marijuana.