Against the backdrop of the growing opioid epidemic, two new studies have been launched to determine how marijuana could possibly better treat pain. Interestingly, one study is from the federal government, which still lists marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug. And the other is from the National Football League, which can still suspend players for marijuana use.
That’s the strange world we live in when it comes to cannabis in 2017. A majority of Americans already think it should be legal for medicinal purposes and 29 states already have legalized it. But federal law has kept the number of studies in this country limited.
In the NFL, players still face fines and suspension for marijuana even as a long list of former players advocate studying marijuana as an alternative pain medication to opioids. They include Hall of Famer Franco Harris and recently retired lineman Eugene Monroe, who has even launched a website about the issue.
On the site, Monroe calls for the NFL to “stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids.”
National Institutes of Health study.
A new $3.8 million study by the National Institutes of Health specifically ties medical marijuana into the opioid issue. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System will conduct the study to determine if medical marijuana use cuts down on the need and use of opioids.
Opioids have become a central public health and political issue. That’s because the numbers are staggering. More than two million Americans abused or were dependent in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC). Between 1999 and 2013, the number of prescriptions for opioids quadrupled. The CDC now terms the issue as an epidemic. Here are more reasons why.
- The number of drug overdoses have quadrupled in the United States since 1999
- Six out of every 10 drug overdoses in the U.S. involve opioids
- Half a million people died from an opioid-related drug overdose from 2000 to 2015
- Every day, 91 people in the U.S. die from an opioid overdose
Through all of this, opioids continue to be prescribed to patients. It’s still one of the most effective pain remedies available.
Information on the proposed NFL study is murkier.
The Washington Post reported that sources within the sports league have written representatives of the player’s union to discuss launching a joint study on the potential of using medical marijuana for pain management.
Two issues may have spurred this potential change in the NFL’s stance on marijuana. One is that the player’s union already has said it will launch a study of its own. The other is that union president DeMaurice Smith has publicly said the union wants a change in the NFL’s near-zero tolerance policy toward cannabis.
Former players have made the issue very public. One of the better examples is former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Kevin Gogan, who has two Super Bowl rings and a long list of medical issues in his early 50s. He told the Houston Chronicle cannabis treats the pain he feels better than any other treatment. Another former player, Kyle Turley, said that “cannabis saved my life,” helping him cope with issues related to repeated head trauma.
With former players speaking out, and the opioid epidemic raging, it could be NFL executives finally decided it was time to make a move into seriously studying marijuana as a potential pain treatment.
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