Colorado Doctors Can Now Prescribe Medical Cannabis in Place of Opioids

The opioid crisis has been striking the U.S. since the late 1990s when healthcare providers began prescribing the pain relievers at rapid rates after pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted. Today, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid addiction kills nearly 130 people every day, totaling more than 47,000 deaths in 2017 alone.  

Cannabis, however, has been making its way onto the list of effective pain treatment methods due to its natural painkilling compounds. In fact, according to a 2014 study, between 1999 and 2010, states with medical cannabis saw almost a 25% decrease in fatal opioid overdoses. 

Now, following in the footsteps of New York and Illinois, Colorado has just become the third state to allow doctors to prescribe patients medical cannabis in place of traditional opioids. According to the new law, effective Friday, patients will have the opportunity to choose cannabis as medication for any condition currently qualifying for opioids. With cannabis already having proved it’s strong painkilling compounds, this could be a huge game changer in terms of both general pain management as well as tackling the country’s current opioid crisis. 

While some worry this step could cause patients to be prescribed cannabis in place of more necessary drugs, the bill passed the state legislature with essential approval from democratic Governor Jared Polis.

 “Colorado loses a community member to drug overdose roughly every nine hours, with opioids contributing to over half of those deaths. Those deaths are preventable,” Polis stated to NBC News. “In light of these statistics, it is incumbent on our lawmakers to provide physicians with opportunities to discuss alternatives to opioids and to provide patients with choices even if additional research regarding medical marijuana is necessary.”

Gov. Polis’ is not alone in this opinion, either. Advocates for cannabis have been shining light on cannabis’ medical benefits for years in hopes of legalization. Hopefully, with research continuing to back the benefits of the plant we will see stories like these extending country-wide so patients across the U.S. can reap the benefits. 

Emerald contributor since June 2019

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