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Cannabis, recovery drug?

Marijuana prescriptions are New York’s new strategy in the opioid crisis

Cannabis, recovery drug?

Pro-marijuana New Yorkers march in the 2018 NYC Cannabis Parade and Rally. (Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A New York moment: 

In one of his newsletters, my New York state representative trumpeted how the New York Assembly passed a bill authorizing certified doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for opioid addiction.

The concept puzzled me, on chemistry alone: Marijuana can relieve some levels pain, but how can marijuana solve the hurricane-force cravings of an opiate addiction? Nationally the addiction crisis is at a point that people are using heroin with fentanyl, an opioid so strong a puff of it from a bag closing can send a first responder to the emergency room. The rising use of fentanyl is why the United States saw a 10 percent increase in drug overdose deaths last year. 

The New York Legislature’s push worked: The New York State Department of Health announced in June that it would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to treat opioid addiction. This continues the national trend (as we reported earlier this year) of throwing more drugs at the drug crisis without accompanying them with counseling or other rehab. It also shows the desperation of public health officials facing this crisis—so hard to overcome because opioid addiction treatment takes years and years. 

What’s the deal with treating opioid addiction with marijuana? I asked an addiction doctor whom I’ve interviewed previously on the opioid crisis. 

“That’s nothing I’ve ever heard of,” Sandy Dettmann wrote back. Dettmann, a Christian, is a federally authorized Suboxone prescriber, so she’s not opposed to medication-assisted treatment for addiction. But in her experience, people “just get high on marijuana in addition to using opioids.” 

New York is not alone in adopting this tactic against addiction. In May, Pennsylvania became the first state to authorize medical marijuana for opioid addiction. Supporters of the idea admitted they don’t have any substantial data beyond anecdotal evidence to show that it’s a valid treatment: “Does that mean you don’t try?” asked one Pennsylvania doctor. Maybe, yes, it does. 

Worth your time:  

David French’s wrenching account of how a changing country has responded to his and his wife’s adoption of their Ethiopian daughter.

This week I learned: 

That Volkswagen has cannons around its major Mexican car plant that can change the weather. The cannons send shock waves that disrupt the formation of hail that might damage cars. Mexican farmers also say the cannons caused a drought during the rainy season. It sounds almost too bonkers to be true.

A court case you might not know about: 

In 2015 I covered a first-of-its-kind case of a teacher who filed as a religious objector to avoid paying dues to a national union that had directed money to Planned Parenthood. Normally, religious objector dues would then go to a nonprofit of the person’s choosing (a measure meant to keep people from using religious objection as an excuse to avoid dues). But the union rejected her choice of nonprofit, a Constitution-focused educational group, and placed her dues in an escrow account. She sued to get the funds. On Tuesday her lawyers said the union had sent her a check for her escrow funds, which she donated to the Constitutional Organization of Liberty, a Pennsylvania group.

Culture I am consuming: 

Four years late, I saw the sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. What a creative, fun film. It seems like it should be more of a classic, in the genre of The Matrix, but maybe it will develop that status as time goes on. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org 

Comments

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  • RC
    Posted: Thu, 08/30/2018 01:46 pm

    The marijuana proponents are so desperately drug addicted to cannabis that they will dream up, or latch on to, anything that will result in legalizing their escape from reality, no matter who they hurt in the process.