Article by Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post
Speaking this morning before the National Association of Attorneys General, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed doubt that marijuana could help mitigate the opioid abuse epidemic.
“I see a line in The Washington Post today [link added] that I remember from the ’80s,” Sessions said. “‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”
The stakes are pretty high here. After all, opioids killed 33,000 people in 2015, up from around 8,000 in 1999. As the head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Sessions oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration, which just last year reaffirmed its belief that marijuana has no medical value and hence should remain illegal (which makes it substantially more difficult for researchers to conduct studies).
Here’s a run-down of where the evidence on marijuana and opiates stands.
Marijuana is great at treating chronic pain.
This is the big finding, and the one from which all the others spring. Surveying the entire known universe of studies about the medical efficacies of cannabis, the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering found “strong evidence” showing marijuana is effective at dealing with chronic pain in adults, relative to a placebo. The National Academies study is the most thorough review of the literature on marijuana to date, conducted by some of the nation’s leading substance use researchers.
Across numerous trials and experiments, the report found, people treated for pain with marijuana were “more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms” compared to a placebo or doing nothing at all.
This is huge news, considering the annual opiate overdose numbers cited above. Americans consume roughly 80 percent of the world’s opiate painkiller supply. The drugs are often prescribed for long-term treatmentof chronic pain, a practice that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now trying to discourage. Prescription painkillers and other opioids are highly addictive, and taking too much of them can easily kill you.