Op-ed: Curbing Colorado's opioid epidemic with cannabis – The Cannabist

Published: Nov 13, 2017, 7:24 am • Updated: Nov 13, 2017, 11:21 am

The following editorial was published in the Denver Post, November 10, 2017:

Colorado, and the rest of the nation, is in the grips of an opioid epidemic. In 2015, 329 lives were lost to opioid overdose, which made up of 38.8 percent of all drug related deaths in Colorado.

Heroin addiction is also on the rise in Colorado, which has been correlated to the increase in opioid addiction and people seeking stronger pain killers. To address the crisis, the Colorado General Assembly has created an interim committee, the Opioid and Other Substances Use Disorders Interim Study Committee, which is comprised of five state Representative and five State Senators, of which five are Republicans and five are Democrats. They are currently reviewing legislative initiatives to combat the issue, including six bills addressing a variety of harm reduction methods, including access to opioid antagonists and expanding health care provider education and insurance coverage.

What the bills fail to mention is the use of cannabis as a potential treatment for addiction, and at minimum a solution for pain management that is proven to be less deadly. One bill even appropriates marijuana tax funds for expanding grants and to assist in repaying loans for addiction counseling training.

A tricky subject at best with addiction counselors, one thing that can’t be ignored is the fact that opioid use is going down in states with legal medical marijuana, including Colorado. Yet, some officials, like Dr. Larry Wolk, Executive Directors of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment remain skeptical, stating “It just hasn’t been in place long enough. Anything that does get published at this point should be considered preliminary data.”

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