According to new research, a significant number of patients in the United States are misusing their prescription opioids.
The study, published yesterday in the Journal of Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, indicates that around 3.9 million adults misuse their opioid medications. In other words, not as prescribed, which can be extremely dangerous. This comes out to 4.4 percent of the 89 million people total who are prescribed opioid drugs every year.
Different forms of misuse include using a higher dose, using the medication more frequently, or using it for a longer period of time than what the doctor prescribed. Opioid drug misuse strongly correlates with various other negative behaviors such as misuse of other medications, illegal drug use, stealing and other illegal activity, and psychological disorders.
“Prescribers should be especially vigilant about the possibility of misuse among patients who are prescribed more potent opioid medications and prescribed these medications for long-term use,” warns Dr. Ramin Mojtabai of Johns Hopkins University, lead author of this study.
Keep in mind that while this study does paint a picture of a deeper problem with prescription drug use, the research relied entirely on self-reporting from patients themselves. This means that the true number of people misusing their medication could actually be much higher, considering many people might be hesitant to admit to something like this.
Using Cannabinoids to Fight Opioid Misuse and Abuse
A fresh and safer alternative to curb this dilemma would be prescribing cannabinoid-based medications for pain instead of opioids. It’s a slippery slope between moderate misuse and total addiction. On average, 130 Americans die every single day from opioid overdose, so something’s got to give.
A 2016 study from the University of Michigan, published in the Journal of Pain, shows some very interesting data. They found that cannabis can reduce overall opioid use by nearly 64%, resulting in a dramatically lower number of opioid related deaths. Around 45% of subjects also reported a higher quality of life and many also claimed to have less side effects from other medications they were taking.
Consider for a moment that you have a teenage child who plays some type of sport at school and they get injured with, say, a broken leg. They’re prescribed opioids for a certain period of time, but slowly become hooked. When they’re no longer given medication from the doctor, they find it from someone at school and don’t stop taking it. This continues for a while and by the time they reach young adulthood, they’re dealing with a full-fledged addiction.
Now consider the fact that around 15% of opioid prescriptions are for children, most of which are given to the impressionable age group of 12-17 years old, but can also be prescribed to children as young as 2 years old. Why is it acceptable to give such strong and habit-forming drugs to teens and young children, but cannabis is still considered taboo?
It’s definitely something to mull over for a while. But regardless, the important take away here is that opioids are commonly misused and cannabis can be the light at the end of the dark addiction tunnel. If you’re in pain, always weigh the risks of your treatment options carefully before deciding what’s best for you.