For the first time ever, the feds have put something forward for investigating the claims that medical marijuana may be an alternative to opioids, and therefore a valuable tool in the fight against the opioid epidemic. With thousands dying from opioids–The New York Times estimated that over 60,000 died from opioid-related overdoses last year alone–something needs to be done.
The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $3.8 million grant to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System to conduct a 5-year long investigation to determine whether medical marijuana is an effective alternative to prescription painkillers. This is the first time any part of the federal government has given money to such an endeavor: the NIH is a research-focused agency under the umbrella of the US Health Department.
Though people have been talking for years about marijuana as a potential replacement for some ailments for which opioids are usually prescribed, or helping those who experience opioid addiction, these suggestions have been steadfastly ignored. Not only is Trump’s administration ignoring things like thousands of comments about medical marijuana lodged when public commentary opened about the opioid epidemic, our Attorney General is actively hostile towards legalization.
“As state and federal governments grapple with the complex issues surrounding opioids and medical marijuana, we hope to provide evidence-based recommendations that will help shape responsible and effective healthcare practices and public policies,” said Chinazo Cunningham, M.D., M.S., associate chief of general internal medicine at Einstein and Montefiore, in a statement. The study will follow 250 patients already enrolled in the MMJ program in New York State, some who are HIV-positive and others who are HIV-negative, and will examine web-based questionnaires that the patients will fill out about their pain to determine if medical marijuana or opioids are more effective in treating their symptoms.
It’s not the administration seriously taking a look at MMJ as a solution for the epidemic, but it is one step in a direction that might lead to research backing up a slew of anecdotal evidence.