Congress is patting itself on the back after passing the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) and sending it to Obama’s desk. The “overwhelmingly bipartisan” bill is meant to address the opioid epidemic currently gripping the U.S.
It was an easy one for congressmen to brag about to their constituency, but the legislation is notable for its failure perhaps more so than its achievement. Namely, the failure to recognize medical cannabis as part of a viable alternative for treating chronic pain, and failure to call out the role of Big Pharma in getting the nation hooked on opioids.
CARA can be applauded for seeking to direct addicts into recovery programs instead of jails, give addiction treatment to those already locked up in the drug war, and expand access of naloxone to first responders for opioid overdoses.
The problem of American opioid addiction is underscored by the fact that the U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 80 percent of the world’s opioids. In Tennessee, painkiller overdoses kill more people than car accidents or guns.
Nationwide, according to the CDC:
Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of these prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
Opioid addiction takes its biggest toll on poorer communities, with the help of sham “pain clinics” that are nothing more than pill pushers with doctorate degrees. They distribute this legal, highly addictive and deadly drug for pharmaceutical companies who make billions from wide-scale addiction.
In fact, U.S. doctors prescribe opioids at twice the rate of any other country, or 82.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in the country.
When addicts can’t afford their expensive pills anymore, they turn to the illegal form of opioids like heroin, where they are subject to the further risks of the black market created by a senseless war on drugs.
Granted, people are the problem, too. Many would rather just take a pill for their pain instead of engaging in alternative programs that require more effort. Doctors gladly fill their requests, perhaps just coming from a lunch paid for by a pharma rep.
Of course, let’s not forget Big Pharma’s partner in crime—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For decades, this relationship has been cultivated, building one of the biggest revolving doors in Washington, rivaling the military-industrial complex.
The FDA is instrumental in sustaining the pill-popping habits of Americans, glad to approve the manufactured products of their buddies in the industry while helping to subdue the potential of natural remedies.
The bias in the FDA is actually pretty obvious.
The day after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new effort to limit the prescription of painkillers by doctors, the agency ignored its own experts’ advice and approved a new drug said to be 10 times more powerful than heroin.
But this is no surprise when we consider, for instance, the fact that one-third of the members on the FDA advisory panel on pain have links to drugmakers. Lo and behold, these advisers “bashed a federal plan to recommend doctors reduce their prescribing of painkillers for chronic pain.”
One of those members, Myra Christopher, has ties to Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which was recently exposed in an OxyContin scandal investigated by the LA Times.
Purdue Pharmaceuticals looked the other way as more than one million OxyContin pills went into the hands of criminals and addicts through corrupt doctors and pharmacies. The company ignored warnings from its own sales manager who pointed out the organized drug ring. Purdue continued pumping pills into the operation and did not inform the DEA about suspicious activity.
With advisers like Christopher, it’s no wonder Congress missed so much in passing CARA. Besides not a whisper about Big Pharma, it ignored the emerging field of medical cannabis for treatment of chronic pain.
This plant, which can be easily processed into usable forms outside of Big Pharma’s control, represents a threat to their profits and to the rigged game in Washington.
Just last week, a new study published in the Journal of Pain found that medical cannabis eases neuropathic pain in patients with spinal cord injury.
“Modulation of glial cell activation and blockade of signaling pathways between neuronal and non-neuronal cells offers new opportunities for more effective treatment of neuropathic pain,” the authors explained. “Given the need for therapeutic advancement, it is surprising that few clinical studies have examined drugs altering glial function” such as cannabinoids, which have been shown to have analgesic effects for NeP in multiple trials.”
We are only just beginning to understand ways to harness the body’s endocannabinoid system through cannabis for healing a diverse number of ailments. In light of the mounting evidence, researchers are calling on doctors to explore medical cannabis instead of continuing the opioid business as usual.
Cannabis may not be the single answer for chronic pain, but it is certainly a valid part of a pain management program that can be more effective than opioids over the long-term, with the added benefit of causing zero deaths. However, alternative pain management strategies are largely ignored.
Sure, Congress passed an opioid bill but, in reality, it missed a huge opportunity. On top of corrupt FDA advisers, Congress is still inhabited by several powerful prohibitionists (who usually happen to get money from pharma companies).
In June, this Congress blocked access to medical cannabis for military veterans, who go off and fight in the bogus crusades of war-mongering politicians and then come back with a lifetime of pain. 500,000 veterans are dependent on opioid painkillers, but their government won’t allow them a safe alternative.
Those same prohibitionists who make their veterans suffer also cruelly denied this miraculous plant to epileptic kids and stripped amendments that would have directed government to study the “potential for marijuana to serve as an alternative to opioids for pain management.”
Congress has perfected the art of trumpeting empty achievements while continuing the same old business of denying freedom, perpetuating injustice and ignoring scientific advancement.