On June 18, 2018, the New York State Department of Health made an announcement that could improve the way we treat severe chronic pain. To combat the epidemic happening in their state and beyond, they added opioid use as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. We all need to discover what makes this development so revolutionary, as well as the implications it has for the future.
You might have noticed Pennsylvania added opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in April 2018. They were the first state ever to legalize cannabis medicine for opioid addiction treatment. This announcement makes New York the second, right? Well, not exactly.. The Department of Health is now trying to target addiction before it even happens.
We have to realize, an opioid-use disorder is entirely different from opioid use. Someone with an opioid-use disorder has symptoms related to opioid dependency and abuse. It has an official entry in the DSM that outlines its diagnosis. The term “opioid use” refers to the act of using opioids, regardless of related symptoms.
Whether they take opioids or not, a large number of New York residents could experience the benefits of this addition. But naturally, people who take opioids will get the most out of it. Opioid medications are incredibly addictive — even when someone takes them as prescribed. Patients who use them often build up a tolerance, slowly making them less effective. Not taking opioids at all is the best way to avoid these adverse effects, and research shows medical marijuana can effectively relieve pain without the harmful consequences.
New York’s medical marijuana program can also grow thanks to this development, giving it more resources and making it more efficient. Restrictions on access and a short list of qualifying conditions have made it difficult for the state to bring in many members. In recent years, they’ve taken steps to make cannabis medicine more accessible through the program. For example, they added chronic pain as a qualifying condition in 2016. State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said he feels optimistic about this change’s potential to improve the program.
Allowing patients to replace opioids with medical marijuana could have a significant impact on the opioid crisis. Anything that slows the opioid crisis is a welcome sight. The heart breaking stories continue to mount on a daily basis. So instead of waiting for someone to become addicted before addressing the problem, the New York program takes a proactive approach. If people participate, the program update could lower the number of opioid prescriptions doctors write in the first place.