As of late, there has been an atmosphere of panic surrounding the opioid crisis. The epidemic of overdoses associated with newer more powerful painkillers captured media attention and the watchful eyes of the political elite. This prompted the Trump administration to place the opioid crisis at the top of their agenda.
A recent survey was launched to investigate whether any progress was being made regarding the issue. This yielded some surprising findings. Statistical data has shown that over the past year opioid use decreased while cannabis use increased.
Opioid Use Decreased According to Federal Survey
Figures from a U.S. government survey released Friday gave hope to the American public. For the first time in years, 2017 represented progress in the fight against addiction. The number of Americans using heroin was down compared to the previous year.
Progress was not was not insignificant or incremental either. 2016 marked a record high in the opioid crisis with 170,000 heroin users documented. A year later in 2017 opioid use decreased to almost half that number with 81,000 heroin users. The survey also found that addiction and abuse of prescription opiates were down and that addicts were more likely to seek treatment for their condition
Experts say, that if this trend persists over the next few years, there would be a substantial drop in the amount overdoses. The Trump administration credits these positive trends with its efforts to curtail the crisis. The administration dedicated $500 million towards treatment and prevention of the opioid crisis and requested another $500 million for the same purpose. These allotments were initially set in place by the Obama administration.
At a glance this seems impressive, however, Trump’s methods have had mixed successes. With those funds, the president has attempted to revive the long deceased, disreputable dare campaign. While the administration plans to dedicate additional funding towards the opioid crisis in 2019, they have also targeted the Affordable Care Act for gutting, which provides invaluable medical care to addicts by expanding Medicare.
Additionally, the Trump administration has taken a bizarre stance on drug propaganda. The president has dedicated the country’s top officials time towards launching smear campaigns that attempt to fight the progress made by the cannabis rights movement.
According to Elinore McCance-Katz, a federal health official, the Trump administration’s outreach and awareness programs are working. She claims information is reaching people and that its effect is tangible. Providing informational deterrents such as tragic stories of heroin overdoses and knowledge of the fatal compounds found in street drugs, such as fentanyl, serve as the main weapons of attack.
Other experts are hopeful as well. According to Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the future of addiction in America is promising.
“Taken together, this does not look like the portrait of a nation with improving mental health and addiction issues. It’s hard to look at this and not think we need to be doing a better job than we’re doing now.”
One of the more positive aspects of the Trump Administration has been the attention it has dedicated to the opioid crisis. However, opioids weren’t the only substances that saw a drastic alteration in consumption patterns amongst Americans. Cannabis use increased over the same period.
Cannabis Use Increased in 2017, Could There Be a Correlation?
The federal survey had some reassuring statistics regarding marijuana. Cannabis use increased among all age groups with the exception of young teens. As much as 2.5 percent of adults 26 and older, or 5.3 million adults, reported they use cannabis daily or nearly daily in 2017.
This affirms what the scientific community and cannabis advocates have been claiming for years. Legalization aids in bringing the plant under the watchful eye of the government, thus preventing minors from access to it. This is reflected by the consumption patterns of the survey.
So could these two statistical trends be related? The legalization of cannabis spreading at a state level has become a force to be reckoned with. Americans in green states have seen great benefit in legalizing cannabis. Perhaps a reduction in opioid addiction is one that flew under the radar of legalization advocates.
The Puff Puff Post has documented the positive effects cannabis can have upon the opioid crisis. It is not insignificant that cannabis prescriptions can serve as a substitute for opioids for many conditions involving chronic pain. In fact, many state governments have gotten on board with ending prohibition of cannabis as a potential solution to the opioid epidemic.
Cannabis has also been demonstrated as an effective medication for treating withdrawal symptoms associated with kicking an opioid habit. This flies in the face of the years of tainted, biased government research claiming that cannabis is a gateway drug.
While certainly not a complete picture of events, these figures are reassuring. Cannabis might not be the stand-alone answer to the opioid crisis, however, it is undoubtedly an important piece of the puzzle.
By: Stefan Hosko