Opioid addiction and overdoses are a huge problem in the United States. However, efforts to cut down on prescriptions may be leaving people in pain.
Senators heard from doctors and experts in the field who talked about solutions – which could include medical marijuana.
More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2017. 47,000 of those were opioid-related.
“Most of the prescription of opioids is being done by people who are not specialists in the field,” says U.S. Senator Mitt Romney.
But the effort to curb the use and abuse of opioids may be leaving people in pain.
halena gazelka, m.d. / mayo clinic
“I worry that we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves with wanting to restrict opioids. A lot of providers are now scared to provide opioids,” says Dr. Halena Gazelka, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic.
Experts said some disabled and chronically ill patients have had their opioid prescriptions cut off and weren’t given an alternate way of managing pain.
Doctors testified women and minorities are often discriminated against because doctors suspect them of just saying they have pain to get drugs.
But the larger problem of opioids prescribed for too long persists. In addition, things like teens accessing medication continues to lead to opioid addiction.
“In Nevada, we’ve ranked 13th in the nation in providing opioid painkillers,” says U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen.
Experts say in some cases, things like ibuprofen would be an adequate replacement for pain – or there are more creative solutions.
“We do have legalized medical marijuana in Nevada,” Rosen says.
Doctors say more research is needed.
“We need good, consistent, well-designed clinical studies,” says Dr. Andrew Coop, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland.
It is difficult to study the impact of medical marijuana because it is still illegal under federal law.