Back in August 2017, Forbes published an article titled “Opioid Task Force Recommends State of Emergency and (Sort of) Bold Treatment Agenda.” We’ve been watching the American opioid crisis closely, and would like to boil some of the government’s initiative down for our readers. We’d also like to touch on what CBD could bring to this mounting national health crisis.
What it’s all about
Janet Burns’s Forbes piece goes into great detail about President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (yes, this is a thing) and its agenda for tackling the burgeoning U.S. opioid epidemic.
Headed up by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the commission tried to do its due diligence over several months last year and came out with a report on the state of America’s opioid problem. The commission proposed several next steps, which included a recommendation to declare a federal state of emergency.
Some noteworthy facts from the report: The number of hardcore pain meds distributed in this country during the years 1999-2015 has quadrupled, yet there hasn’t been any increase in pain reported by American patients. Also, every three weeks, the opioid death toll is equivalent to that of 9/11. America has a major problem to contend with here.
What the government wants to do about it
As stated above, the commission’s “first and most urgent recommendation” advised President Trump to declare a national emergency. This may sound extreme, but when you look at opioid statistics, it isn’t.
Among other proposed measures to be taken are making naloxone—the opioid overdose antidote—more readily available to communities in need and first responders like law enforcement; funding incentives to make “medication-assisted treatments” (MATs) like methadone and buprenorphine more available; making addiction treatment more accessible to Medicaid enrollees, and improving how medical and pharmaceutical touchpoints understand and track data related to opioid use (and abuse) in this country.
Opioid experts weigh in
For good reason, the proposed state of emergency and other actions have drawn the attention of experts in the opioid space; some say there could be more efficient and innovative answers to the mounting opioid problem.
One of these experts, Dr. Corey Waller, Senior Medical Director of Education and Policy for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and Chair of the Legislative Advocacy Committee of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), was very vocal with Forbes, weighing in on some of the holes in the government’s proposal.
For starters, Waller believes that pursuing the “national emergency” route via FEMA might not be the best way to find support here, as that route is better suited to natural disasters and other localized threats. The opioid problem is nationwide and should be handled differently. The Public Health Services Act might be a better umbrella, as it’s more specific to health concerns.
Funding notwithstanding, the president’s commission doesn’t address the workforce that will need to be put in place to help patients beat opioid addiction—high-quality care from qualified professionals needs to be built into future plans for this task force to be truly successful. This means building up physicians’ education on opioids early on. Waller “praised the commission’s suggestions but said the training needs to start… earlier. ‘Prescriber education is great, but we need to embed that curriculum in medical and nursing schools,’ he said.”
Medication-assisted treatments (MATs) like methadone and buprenorphine still carry with them a certain stigma, and Waller says that another aspect of future planning is to break free of this and recognize that these are viable treatments for addiction. “Medicine-assisted treatment is treatment,” he says. “It allows people to get back to work, take care of their families, get back to school, and the alternative is premature death or incarceration, or both.”
Also mentioned in the same breath as the other MATs, and of particular interest to us—you guessed it, CBD. Waller is a bit skeptical, yet he states that cannabis is “not a drug, but 80 psychoactive compounds…. and the one with the most potential to treat [opioid] cravings is cannabidiol.”
In assessing the viability of CBD as an anti-opioid treatment option, Waller makes a very important distinction that anyone interested in cannabis medicine should understand. His skepticism and fear of cannabis misuse has more to do with patients using the wrong kinds of cannabinoids than it does with CBD’s effectiveness: “Instead of smoking low-THC, high-CBD-content marijuana, patients end up smoking a low-CBD, high-THC content product, which most legal manufacturers are focusing on. We have to figure out the balance of the chemicals in there: some really will move science forward on pain, and on mood disorders, but some of those chemicals can make things worse.”
The CBD Movement perspective
All eyes are on the opioid crisis these days, and we’re glad to see it’s getting more coverage. But the government’s role continues to meet with skepticism, and rebellion.
A February 20 New York Magazine article penned by Andrew Sullivan states: “Although Trump plans to increase spending on treating addiction, the overall emphasis is on an even more intense form of prohibition, plus an advertising campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions even recently opined that he believes marijuana is really the key gateway to heroin—a view so detached from reality it beggars belief.”
If only more people were open to CBD and willing to see the CBD/opioid connection. “Build it, and they will come,” the saying goes. That’s why we built CBD Movement.
CBD might very well be a viable treatment option for opioid addicts, but ill-informed patients and members of the medical community have a tough time making sure that the right cannabinoid compounds are used for the right purposes, and in the right proportions. This is the downside of living in an era where cannabis medicine is a largely unregulated “Wild West,” though we don’t think this will be true forever. Especially with new data regularly emerging about CBD’s effectiveness for a wide variety of medical applications.
We hope that CBD will soon stand among the MATs that are used to battle the opioid crisis in this country—this represents a chance for CBD to help save lives on a massive scale. You can be sure we’ll be watching for further developments on the opioid issue in the days to come. Check back regularly, sign up for our e-newsletter, or bookmark the site to stay on top of further updates.
Relatedly, if you’d like to learn more about chronic pain, check out this piece.