Medical marijuana could help solve the opioid epidemic, Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells Jeff Sessions

Watch Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special Report “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills” on Sunday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET.

Mr. Sessions, there is actually an added urgency, as we are from the middle of a deadly opioid epidemic that will has been described as the worst self-inflicted epidemic from the history of our country.

The drug overdose scourge claimed about 68,000 US lives in 2017, just over 45,000 of them through opioids alone. Every day, 115 Americans die through opioid overdoses. that will has fueled a decline in an entire country’s life expectancy and also also also will be remembered as a sad and also also also tragic chapter in our collective history.

These are desperate times, and also also also while some may consider doing medical marijuana widely available to be a desperate measure, the evidence has become increasingly clear of the important role cannabis can have.

We have seen real-world clues of medical marijuana’s benefits. Researchers through the Rand Corp., supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, conducted “the most detailed examination of medical marijuana and also also also opioid deaths to date” and also also also found something few initially expected. The analysis showed an approximately 20% decline in opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and also also also 2010 in states with legalized medical marijuana and also also also functioning dispensaries.
that will’s not once This kind of association between medical marijuana and also also also opioid overdose has been found. Though that will is actually too early to draw a cause-effect relationship, these data suggest that will medicinal marijuana could save up to 10,000 lives every year.

The science of weed

Cannabis and also also also its compounds show potential to save lives in three important ways.

Cannabis can help treat pain, reducing the initial need for opioids. Cannabis is actually also effective at easing opioid withdrawal symptoms, much like that will does for cancer patients, ill through chemotherapy side effects. Finally, and also also also perhaps most important, the compounds found in cannabis can heal the diseased addict’s brain, helping them break the cycle of addiction.

Mr. Sessions, there is actually no different known substance that will can accomplish all This kind of. If we had to start through scratch and also also also design a medicine to help lead us out of the opioid epidemic, that will could likely look very much like cannabis.

A better, and also also also safer, way to treat pain

The consensus is actually clear: Cannabis can effectively treat pain. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and also also also Medicine arrived at This kind of conclusion last year after what that will described as the “most comprehensive studies of recent research” on the health effects of cannabis.

Furthermore, opioids target the breathing centers from the brain, putting their users at real risk of dying through overdose. In stark contrast, with cannabis, there is actually virtually no risk of overdose or sudden death. Even more remarkable, cannabis treats pain in a way opioids cannot. Though both drugs target receptors that will interfere with pain signals to the brain, cannabis does something more: that will targets another receptor that will decreases inflammation — and also also also does that will fast.

Marijuana legalization could help offset opioid epidemic, studies find

I have seen This kind of firsthand. All over the country, I have met patients who have weaned themselves off opioids using cannabis. Ten years ago, attorney Marc Schechter developed a sudden painful condition known as transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord. After visiting doctors in several states, he was prescribed opioids and also also also, according to our calculations, consumed approximately 40,000 pills over the next decade. Despite that will, his pain scores remained an eight out of 10. He also suffered significant side effects through the pain medication, including nausea, lethargy and also also also depression.

Desperate and also also also out of options, Schechter saw Dr. Mark Wallace, head of University of California, San Diego Health’s Center for Pain Medicine, where he was recommended cannabis. Minutes after he took that will for once, Schechter’s pain was reduced to a score of two out of 10, with hardly any side effects. One dose of cannabis had provided relief that will 40,000 pills over 10 years could not.

Using marijuana to get off opioids

For Schechter, as with so many others, the seemingly insurmountable barrier to ending his opioid use was the terrible withdrawal symptoms he suffered each time he tried. When a patient stops opioids, their pain is actually often magnified, accompanied by rapid heart rate, persistent nausea and also also also vomiting, excessive sweating, anorexia and also also also terrible anxiety.

Here again, cannabis is actually proven to offer relief. As many know, there is actually longstanding evidence that will cannabis helps chemotherapy-induced symptoms in cancer patients, and also also also those symptoms are very similar to opioid withdrawal. In fact, for some patients, cannabis is actually the only agent that will subdues nausea while increasing appetite.

Why we can’t ‘just say no’ to opioids

Finally, when someone is actually addicted to opioids, they are often described as having a brain disease. Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai in brand-new York City, showed me what This kind of looks like in autopsy specimens of those who had overdosed on opioids. Within the prefrontal cortex of the brain, she found damage to the glutamatergic system, which makes that will difficult for neural signals to be transmitted. This kind of is actually an area of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-doing, learning and also also also memory.

Hurd told me that will when an individual’s brain is actually “fundamentally changed” and also also also diseased in This kind of manner, they lose the ability to regulate opioid consumption, unable to quit despite their best efforts — unable to “just say no.”

that will is actually no surprise, then, that will abstinence-only programs have pitiful results when that will comes to opioid addiction. Even the current gold standard of medication-assisted treatment, which is actually far more effective, still relies on less-addictive opioids such as methadone and also also also buprenorphine. that will continued opioid use, Hurd worries, can cause ongoing disruption to the glutamatergic system, never allowing the brain to fully heal. that will may help explain the tragic tales of those who succeed in stopping opioids for a short time, only to relapse again and also also also again.
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This kind of is actually precisely why Hurd commenced to look to different substances to help and also also also settled on nonpsychoactive cannabidiol or CBD, one of the primary components in cannabis. Hurd and also also also her team discovered that will CBD actually helped “restructure and also also also normalize” the brain at the “cellular level, at the molecular level.” that will was CBD that will healed the glutamatergic system and also also also much better the workings of the brain’s frontal lobes.

This kind of brand-new science sheds lights on stories like the one I heard through Doug Campbell of Yarmouth, Maine. He told me he had been in and also also also out of drug rehab 32 times over 25 years, with no success. although soon after starting cannabis, he no longer has “craving, desire and also also also has not thought about (opioids) at all, period.”

For the past 40 years, we have been told that will cannabis turns the brain into a fried egg, and also also also at This kind of point there is actually scientific evidence that will that will can do just the opposite, as that will did for Campbell. that will can heal the brain when nothing else does.

I know that will sounds too Great to be true. I initially thought so, as well. Make no mistake, though: Marc Schechter and also also also Doug Campbell are emblematic of thousands of patients who have successfully traded their pills for a plant.

These patients often live from the shadows, afraid to come forward to share their stories. They fear stigma. They fear prosecution. They fear that will someone will take away what they believe is actually a lifesaving medication.

Mr. Sessions, Dr. Mark Wallace has invited you to spend a day seeing these patients in his San Diego clinic and also also also witness their outcomes for yourself. Dr. Dustin Sulak could do the same for you in Portland, Maine, as could Dr. Sue Sisley in Phoenix. Staci Gruber in Boston could show you the brain scans of those who tried cannabis for once and also also also were then able to quit opioids. Dr. Julie Holland in brand-new York City could walk you through the latest research. All over the country, you will find the scientists who write the books and also also also papers, advance the science and also also also grow our collective knowledge. These are the women and also also also men to whom you should listen. They are the ones, free of rhetoric and also also also conjecture, full of facts and also also also truth, who are our best chance at halting the deadly opioid epidemic.

doing medicinal marijuana available should come with certain obligations and also also also mandates, just as with any different medicine. that will should be regulated to ensure its safety, free of contamination and also also also consistent in dosing. that will should be kept out of the hands of children, pregnant women and also also also those who are at risk for worse side effects. Any responsible person wants to make sure This kind of is actually a medicine that will helps people, not harms.

Recently, your fellow conservative John Boehner changed his mind after being “unalterably opposed” to marijuana from the past. If you do the same, Mr. Attorney General, thousands of lives could be much better and also also also saved. There is actually no time to lose.

Source : Medical marijuana could help solve the opioid epidemic, Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells Jeff Sessions