Two years ago, an estimated 95 Americans died every day as a result of opioid overdose. Today, that daily death toll is 115. Though our country has spent billions of dollars on efforts to end the opioid crisis, it grows only worse.
One big reason why: we are not using cannabis — marijuana — one of the most effective tools in all of medicine, to combat the problem.
Unlike opioids, cannabis is a safe, sustainable option for pain relief that does not put its users at risk for overdose. The plant produces unique molecules, known as cannabinoids, which interact with receptors in our bodies’ own endocannabinoid system. These receptors are widely found throughout our brain’s pain processing regions. In pre-clinical studies, when cannabinoids are administered directly into these areas, they produce robust pain relief.
In Illinois, patients are legally allowed to use cannabis to help alleviate a range of ailments, many with a strong chronic pain component — fibromyalgia, for instance. In 2015, the number of registered adult patients in Illinois using cannabis to treat pain was about 2,600. By June 2017, that number increased to nearly 22,000 — a more than 700 percent increase.
Nearly 7,000 of these patients reside in Cook County and are registered to use cannabis for conditions ranging from cancer, glaucoma, and