Pills & Overdoses

Yearly Overdose Deaths Top 100,000 For The First Time, Not 1 From Cannabis

  • Overdose deaths in the U.S. topped 100,000 in the last 12 months. More than two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2021 are attributable to opioids. 
  • Cases of drug and alcohol addiction are also on the rise as a direct result of the covid pandemic.
  • Medical marijuana and cannabis-based medicines offer a safe and natural alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. 
  • Incidences of opioid and alcohol addiction have been falling in states that offer medical marijuana cards to patients that might otherwise be prescribed opioids and other dangerous drugs.
  • Cannabis users have not incurred a single death by overdose in the U.S. — ever.

Americans are swimming against a swelling tsunami of prescriptions for opioids and other addictive and dangerous drugs. Sadly, the number of overdose deaths in the U.S. topped 100,000 for the first time in history. And experts at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that in 2022, 68% of overdose deaths in the U.S. are the result of opioid usage.

Could medical marijuana help stem the tide that is costing Americans tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars annually?

There is sufficient evidence to support the idea that cannabis might offer a safe and effective alternative to harmful prescription medications for many patients.

Since covid, the incidences of medical issues such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and other issues have been soaring here in the U.S. and across the globe.

Marijuana and Mental Health – Read More

Marijuana & Mental Health

In addition to the increases in prescribed pharmaceuticals, many individuals are resorting to self-medicating. “Recreational” drugs and alcohol are being used indiscriminately by those living in isolation as the fear of potential death, homelessness, and poverty loom large on the uncertain horizon.

Tragically, the number of deaths from overdose has increased by a staggering 29 percent from April 2019 to April 2020, according to the CDC. The number of overdose deaths has leaped from around 78,000 to over 100,000 in one year. The numbers for 2021 are still rolling in, and they’re not encouraging.

In terms of overdose deaths, the synthetic opioid fentanyl tops the list as the worst offender, followed by methamphetamine. Cocaine overdoses also saw a marginal increase from 2020 to 2021. In many cases, people are dying from deadly drug combinations such as fentanyl taken with meth or cocaine.

Moreover, in July, a CDC report concluded that a third of the deaths resulting from accidents or unintentional injuries were directly related to drug overdoses.

At the state level, a handful of states are indicating drastic elevations in overdose-related deaths. Vermont is showing an almost 70 percent increase, West Virginia 62 percent, Kentucky 55 percent, Louisiana 52 percent, and Tennessee, 50 percent.

As the severity of the opioid epidemic increases, health authorities are focusing on harm-reduction strategies and expanding government treatment programs. One approach is to distribute the overdose antidote, naloxone. However, naloxone does nothing to combat the agony of withdrawal or to address chronic pain issues.

Beyond overdose deaths

Overdoses aren’t the only damage done. Another tragic by-product of the opioid epidemic is the increase in cases of cirrhosis of the liver. It’s a well-documented fact that opioids contribute to significant complications with cirrhosis, including precipitating encephalopathy.

Opioid abuse is also believed to coincide with a spike in viral hepatitis within the younger population. Hepatitis C is generally spread by needle-sharing during intravenous drug use, and cases are skyrocketing. HCV is known to cause both liver cancer and cirrhosis. Patients suffering from these conditions often have no other option than to seek a high-risk liver transplant.

Deaths attributed to covid 19 have surpassed five million globally with more than three-quarters of a million here in the U.S. alone. However, this number doesn’t take into account the staggering number of overdose deaths resulting from patients trying to deal with the direct effects of the illness nor the wave of mental health issues resulting from constant dire news, lockdowns, lost jobs, and other related issues. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. population has witnessed a surge in severe anxiety and depression cases. This surge has resulted in a spike in prescriptions for drugs used to combat mental health disorders. Some of these medications are rife with long-term side effects such as weight gain, sleeplessness, and in some cases, even suicidal ideation and psychotic episodes.

Alcohol consumption has also been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the number of liver transplants doubled over the previous fifteen years. Today, cases of alcohol-associated liver disease are becoming more prevalent. And the problem is likely to grow significantly over the next year as covid mutations arise.

Adderall and Ritalin prescriptions have also been rising over the course of the pandemic. ADHD symptoms are frequently exacerbated by isolation and lack of societal interaction in school-age children. Online classes simply don’t provide the necessary guidance required by children afflicted with hyperactivity issues and short attention spans. 

These pharmaceuticals are beneficial for some patients. However, they, too, come with a host of unpleasant side effects. They are also known to decrease in efficacy over time. Individuals taking these drugs may experience agitation, insomnia, tremors, increased blood pressure, stomach pain and vomiting to name just a few symptoms.

Additionally, the long-term abuse of these highly-addictive medications can lead to multiple mental and physical issues over time. And, sadly, in some cases, Adderall and Ritalin addiction can be deadly.

How medical marijuana can help stem the tide of drug overdose

Cannabis, currently categorized as a Schedule I illicit substance in the U.S, may offer a viable solution for thousands of patients. 

With drug overdoses now top 100,000 each year, cannabis users have not incurred a single death by overdose in the U.S. — ever. Although some experts will argue this fact, the vast majority of cases of death from so-called “marijuana poisoning” involve prior medical conditions, the combining of dangerous drugs, or respiratory failure due to excessive vaping or vaping tainted oils.

The fact of the matter is that though they may be “habit-forming,” cannabinoids are non-addictive and non-toxic. This is because phytocannabinoids produced in marijuana are highly similar to our own naturally produced endocannabinoids.

Hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients nationwide are finding that, when used properly, marijuana and cannabis concentrates are effective substitutes for opioids for the treatment of pain. While some patients are able to reduce the amount of prescription drugs they consume, some are able to kick opioids altogether.

Several U.S. states offer medical marijuana access to patients suffering from chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Several others, such as Florida’s medical marijuana program, allow doctors to decide which patients qualify for a medical marijuana card. 

Additionally, New Mexico, IllinoisNew Jersey, MissouriNew York, and Pennsylvania all allow patients suffering from drug addiction or patients being prescribed opioids for pain to qualify for a medical marijuana card. 

Cannabis consumption may also help to combat the ravages of anxiety and depression-induced alcoholism and provide a safe way to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. The cannabinoids in medical marijuana are known to provide relief from mental distress by increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Cannabis is even being used in addiction recovery programs in several marijuana-friendly states.

Moreover, non-intoxicating products derived from hemp have been shown to modulate the brain’s reward circuits and significantly reduce cravings for many patients in recovery programs. Patients need not live in a state with a medical marijuana program to use products containing non-intoxicating cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, CBN, and CBC. Anyone can buy CBD online without a medical marijuana card.

Statistically, it appears that states allowing cannabis as an adjunct or in lieu of opioids are witnessing a substantial reduction in opioid use. Missouri is a prime example of this trend. The number of opioid-related deaths in the state is plummeting along with the rise in access to medical-grade cannabis in MO.

Conclusion

In summary, medical marijuana appears to offer a safe and effective alternative to alcohol abuse and the dangerous drugs being overprescribed during this time of crisis. Hopefully, the use of medical marijuana and hemp-derived products — neither of which are habit-forming nor deadly when used properly — will continue to expand, saving tens of thousands of Americans from succumbing to addiction and overdose. 

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