CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, just wrote an important letter to the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to encourage him to decriminalize marijuana and embrace its value as a medicinal plant.
While the political clout that Gupta holds may be negligible, the medical bully pulpit that Gupta is at the center of is resonating. Gupta has been studying the medicinal effects of marijuana for the past five years and has determined that the use of this plant in healthcare settings to treat opioid addiction could save upwards of 10,000 lives annually.
Gupta Studies Marijuana
After an exhaustive hands-on study with patients across the globe, Gupta has concluded that marijuana has medicinal benefits for a number of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, pain management, and epilepsy. He expressed a great deal of public skepticism, suggesting that much of the research was flawed. But by April 2018, Dr. Gupta’s research was complete and he completely reversed his opinion of the plant. He states, “It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally.”
Dr. Gupta said he wrote the letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which was published on the CNN website after multiple attempts to reach Sessions were denied by staff.
Opioid Addiction – A Rising Epidemic
The National Institute on Drug Abuse calls it the “opioid overdose crisis.” Their statistics show a chilling epidemic of abuse and death tied to legal opioid use:
- Over 115 people in the U.S. die every day from opioid addiction.
- The economic burden of this crisis is costing the U.S. $78.5 billion per year.
- 21 to 29% of Americans who are prescribed these drugs misuse them.
- Somewhere around 12% become addicted.
- From July 2016 to September 2017, opioid overdoses increased by 70%.
It’s startling to realize that the NIDA lays the blame for the epidemic right at the feet of drug companies, stating:
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.
But Dr. Sanjay Gupta suggests that marijuana can be used to ease withdrawal symptoms in those people addicted to opioids. Research backs up this statement; in 2018 a new study tracking marijuana use as an alternative to opioid use and withdrawal. States that have legalized marijuana are now seeing a corresponding drop in opioid use – and lives are being saved. One study showed a 14% reduction in opioid prescriptions that have loosened their medical marijuana laws.
Despite the research and a growing body of practical knowledge tied to legal pot usage, the U.S. Attorney General shows no sign of responding to Dr. Gupta’s letter. In the meantime, more states are expected to legalize marijuana over the summer and new bills are being introduced that the federal level to decriminalize pot.
You can read the entirety of Dr. Gupta’s letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions here.