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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of fatal overdoses from opioids in 2002 was just over 10,000. By 2010, this number nearly doubled to 20,000. In 2015 this number increase again to 33,000.

There is clearly a problem here.

Since 1990, opioid prescriptions have increased tenfold. What has caused this dramatic rise in opioid prescriptions? For many addiction specialists and board certified physicians, the increase in prescriptions for opioids came as a direct result of a movement in the 1990s to address the chronic pain problems facing millions of Americans.  Due to this movement, healthcare providers were feeling the pressure to provide any patient —who claimed they were suffering from chronic pain—with a prescription for painkillers.  This created a pattern among many healthcare providers to give their patient a bottle of pills for almost any ailment. And many have argued that it is this care-free approach to opioids has caused more harm than good.

As such, the opioid epidemic has spurred dozens of advocacy groups dedicated to educating both patients and health care providers alike on the dangers of chronic opioid use. Of course, one of the largest potential alternatives to opioids is cannabis-based medications.

Research has indicated that states—where medical marijuana is legally available—have lower opioid overdose deaths than states which do not allow medical marijuana. Some estimates claim that this is to the tune of roughly 25%! In addition, medical cannabis has been approved to treat as many as 10 different types of conditions! To date, approximately 1.4 million medical marijuana patients have been authorized to use cannabis as an alternative treatment method.

Large strides have been made to legalize the use of cannabis-based treatments, but they still face many challenges. One of the largest problems advocates for medical marijuana are facing now is that several states— such as Connecticut and New Jersey— don’t allow for cannabis products to be used as a treatment for chronic pain. The opposition argues that a “broad” number of categories where cannabis use is allowed would lead to further unauthorized use. This is of course disputed by many industry experts.

So how can we convince the powers that be that cannabis is the answer?  Write to your state senator and representative today. Tell them that this epidemic needs to stop now, and we have a solution.