Pot Addicts Are Okay But Legitimate Chronic Pain Sufferers In Need of Opioids? Not So Much.

There is a strange dichotomy taking place in society today. On the one hand, laws against marijuana are being eliminated. People who abuse pot are now able to feed their addiction with an overly generous supply of the drug. For example, in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal, users can purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks. This is enough to be stoned every day. Once you have a prescription, you can refill it for an entire year without going back to renew the prescription. It’s easy to get a prescription in most states that have legalized medical marijuana, just inform a doctor you have pain. And if you live in a state like California that has legalized recreational marijuana, there aren’t even any limits on how much you can buy (just how much you can have on hand). 

In contrast, opioids, which are commonly prescribed for chronic pain and have been legal for years (with the exception of heroin and some fentanyl) are becoming increasingly restricted. Legitimate chronic pain sufferers who depend on them to reduce their pain are finding themselves going days without any medication or undermedicated as a result of the new crackdown. It began since people were overdosing on opioids. 

By October of this year, 33 states had passedlaws limiting opioid prescriptions. They limit the supply a doctor may prescribe to seven days or less. This exponentially increases problems with timely refilling prescriptions. One chronic pain sufferer complained, “The insurance companies are lying to their own subscribers in the Prior Auth Dept, ignoring, transferring to dead lines, long appeals that go nowhere, on & on….” It also means more co-pays. Some states are now requiring doctors and pharmacists to take a course on opioids. 

Many states have limited the maximum dose as well. Federal opioid prescribing guidelines recommend doctors use caution in prescribing above 50 MME/day. But many patients need 90 MME/day or higher. In Arizona, patients are limitedto 90 MME/day. There are exceptions for some types of illnesses — but not chronic pain. For those sufferers, they can only receive a higher dose if their doctor consults with a board-certified pain specialist.

One woman in Arizona who suffers from chronic pain said her opioid dose was lowered from 100 MME/day to 90 MME/day as a result of the new laws. She saidher pain has been “terrible” ever since. “It just hurts,” she said. “I don’t want to walk, I pretty much don’t want to do anything.”

Two medical associations in Arizona warnedbefore the law was passed, “We strongly oppose putting any kind of dose-strength limitation in state law. … Every patient is unique and there is no universally accepted threshold for what is acceptable for every situation. Some complex pain patients can be properly cared for and managed by appropriate providers with higher dosages that allow them to manage pain and be active members of society and our economy.”

Another new law requires pharmacists to check and make sure patients aren’t doctor hopping — doubling up on prescriptions. Any accidental overlap between prescriptions hurts the patient, who is humiliated at the pharmacy when caught. Senior citizens are treated by pharmaceutical staff like common criminals. 

Doctors risk sanctions if they don’t comply with the new laws. As a result,fewerdoctors are prescribing opioids. This is making it more difficult for patients to find doctors. After the laws were passed, doctorsreportedfeeling pressure to lower patient doses, even for patients who have been on stable regimens of opioids for years without trouble.”

Dr. Julian Grove, president of the Arizona Pain Society, says“A lot of practitioners are reducing opioid medications, not from a clinical perspective, but more from a legal and regulatory perspective for fear of investigation. No practitioner wants to be the highest prescriber.” Even doctors that specialize in pain management are feeling pressure to reduce dosages. 

Psychiatrist Sally Satel, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, saysthe problem traces back to guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016. The guidelines were not meant to apply to pain specialists, nor were they to be applied as a blanket policy to every patient. “There is no mandate to reduce doses on people who have been doing well,” Satel said.

Ironically, chronic pain sufferers are told to switch to medical marijuana to ease their pain — but it doesn’t work for everyone’s pain. A recent Australian study foundthat marijuana does little for pain.  

The reality, according to the National Pain Report, is “America’s so-called ‘opioid epidemic’ is caused by street drugs (some of them diverted prescription drugs)  rather than by prescriptions made by doctors to chronic pain patients.” More people diefrom illegal opioids than prescription opioids. Opioid prescriptions were already decreasing before the crackdown started. In Arizona, prescriptions decreasedevery year since 2013, a 10 percent decrease total.  

And just because a few doctors overprescribed opioids does not mean everyone should be treated like a dangerous addict at risk of overdosing. One size does not fit all. Someone who has been taking a higher dosage of prescription opioids for years without incident should be allowed to continue.  

Over 11 percent of the population suffersfrom chronic pain. It is cruel and bad medical science to prevent this segment from the population from getting the only relief that works for many of them. The laws need to be changed to allow those legitimately suffering to access adequate amounts of prescription opioids, without risk to their doctor or pharmacist. It makes no sense as we’re relaxing the laws prohibiting marijuana.    

Reprinted from Townhall

8 comments to Pot Addicts Are Okay But Legitimate Chronic Pain Sufferers In Need of Opioids? Not So Much.

  • Marijuana does not meet the scientific standard for physical addiction. You may be able to make an argument for mental dependency, but that is a far cry from addiction. Scientifically, addiction requires that the body responds to the lack of the substance…Some sort of reaction to not using it. There is no physical reaction when someone chooses to stop smoking weed. They may miss it, but that’s about all. So please be accurate. Being addictive to opioids is in no way similar to marijuana use.

  • Sunshine

    Pot doesn’t require a limit on usage because there aren’t any chemicals in it that can kill you with an overdose, while 115 people per day die in the US from the opioid epidemic. There really is no comparison between the 2. I’ve known pot users basically all my life, as well as opiate users- generally all addicted to pills and the pot users generally stay in control of their situation regardless, maybe a little lazy but it never effects their place in society or employment. I’ve seen opiate users turned abusers destroyed in a dozen cases or better. Not really trying to defend the stoners, just mentioning the obvious from my experience.

  • John

    According to a NIH study you cannot become addicted to marijuana period

  • Nunya

    There is NO SUCH THING as a “pot addict”. Give me a break.

  • Oh but, the wonder drug Marijuana will take its place! It has no negative effects on anyone (other than lowering your IQ, causing increased aggression, adversly affecting your lungs, decreasing response time, altering the chemical balance in your brain and a host of other effects) and works for everyone in all cases! Classic politicians, acting only for political gain with no studying of the ample evidence available.

  • Miracle Mike

    Pot is non-narcotic and not addictive. Please return to the 50’s to sell your Marijuana Madness.

  • WatcherontheWall

    Amen! As a child of the 70’s, any & all drug were available to me for pleasure or pain. But, I didn’t need them.
    Now that I am a senior citizen in chronic pain. . . . I get zero pain medication. All because someone, somewhere is an addict. My quality of life has dropped dramtically. This is nothing less than elder abuse!!!

  • Corey Perkins

    As a resident in Massachusetts and specifically an area where the opioid epidemic is currently happening, I’d like to offer a little insight into the problems faced across the board in these places.

    For instance, in the first 9 months of 2018 there were 1,233 opioid overdose deaths. (https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/11/16/Opioid-related-Overdose-Deaths-among-MA-Residents-November-2018.pdf)

    Now, being on the ground here and having a parent who worked in a pharmacy in one of these towns and talking to my doctors personally, in addition to people at work or parties or the general public- the regulations set in place have been necessary for decreasing the number of new addicts.

    The majority of heroin addicts start out doing pills, because they either get prescribed them for an injury/illness and subsequently get addicted, or because they buy the pills on the street since they’re considered a rich man’s heroin, essentially. Once they’re hooked and they realize how expensive a pill habit is (street value of some opioids can be as high as $30+ for one pill) they unfortunately typically turn to heroin to satisfy their addiction because it’s cheaper and easier to get here at this point.

    While chronic pain should be taken very seriously and research should be done into causes, treatments, and prevention, the problem still remains that it’s absurdly easy for people to play the system. Countless people here have bragged to me about their ability to lie to their doctor into giving them whatever prescription they want, and when my mother worked at a pharmacy it wasn’t typically your senior citizen getting screwed over by the system when their doctors’ prescriptions conflicted- it was typically a young addict who was trying to get multiple prescriptions (which is a red flag that they’re probably selling the pills, too) and often when these people got questioned or flagged in the computer system and didn’t get their drugs, they became verbally abusive, hostile, and violent.

    To talk about opioid prescription use without talking about its ties to the heroin (and now fentanyl) epidemic, because they’re all technically opioids, is dangerous. Downplaying the role prescription drugs have in creating opioid addiction and for some, heroin addiction and comparing “pot addicts” with the devastation the opioid crisis has had is not logical. I’ll gladly welcome the legalization of marijuana here because it has been studied as an alternative to drugs like methodone which they’re currently using to treat addicts. I’m not going to go into all the other various medical uses marijuana can have here, as my main point is that marijuana should not be demonized in an article while simultaneously championing the use of opioids, as marijuana can be used to treat opioid addiction and it does not cause physical dependence or overdose, unlike opioids.

    While new restrictions shouldn’t be put on established chronic pain sufferers, the vetting process for new patients/prescriptions absolutely has to be stringent here to prevent a chronic cycle of generations of addicts. Already since the system changed in pharmacies to flag any contradicting prescriptions, along with many other measures from the state including the use of narcan to save the lives of those who overdose, we have seen a small decline in the number of opioid deaths.

    Thank you for reading.

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