Every day, more than 100 Americans die in the United States from opioid overdoses, and while this epidemic has become increasingly devastating in recent years, a natural plant that has been shown to combat opioid addiction is still deemed “illegal” by the federal government.
According to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as of March 2018, “more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.” These overdoses can be attributed to prescription pain medications, which are prescribed like candy with little warning about how dangerously addictive they are; heroin, which many addicts turn to when they lose access to prescription opioids; and fentanyl, which has become increasingly popular despite its deadly track record.
The rise of the opioid epidemic at home has coincided with the United States’ control of poppy production worldwide. Before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, there were around 189,000 heroin users in the United States. By 2016, that number had increased dramatically to 4.5 million users. The longest war in the nation’s history has resulted in the U.S. controlling 90 percent of the world’s opium supply.
If the U.S. wanted to decrease opium production in Afghanistan, it has the power to do so. But instead, President Trump has pledged to spend “the most money ever” fighting the ongoing opioid epidemic, while no one in his administration is proposing any legitimate solutions, and the officials who are paid to propose solutions have direct ties to the pharmaceutical companies that helped cause the crisis in the first place.
The government claims it can end the epidemic at the same time it is encouraging it by criminalizing a natural plant has been shown to combat opioid addiction. A study published in August 2017 found that when participants used cannabidiol (CBD), it actually blocked the opioid reward in their brains, and as a result, “The finding that cannabidiol blocks opioid reward suggests that this compound may be useful in addiction treatment settings.”
Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that “Medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.” Studies have also shown that deaths from opioids plummet in states where cannabis is legal and that 80 percent of cannabis users give up prescription pills.
The federal government is also prolonging the opioid epidemic by pushing for a ban on kratom, a natural herb derived from the coffee plant that has served as a life-saving alternative for individuals who are addicted to opioids. Instead of acknowledging the success of kratom, the Food and Drug Administration is attempting to have it labeled as a Schedule I drug, which would mean that they claim it has no medicinal value.
In a letter to the FDA, a group of scientists argued that banning kratom would actually “increase the number of deaths of Americans caused by opioids because many people who have found kratom to be their lifeline away from strong opioids will be vulnerable to resumption of that opioid use, whether their prior opioid use was for relief of pain or due to opioid addiction.”
As 4/20 celebrations take place across the country today, it important to remember that the opioid epidemic is just one of the many consequences of a “War on Drugs” that has only served to benefit Big Pharma, the prison industrial complex, and government lobbyists. If the government truly wanted to put an end to the devastating number of overdose deaths, it would stop demonizing the natural plants that have provided a life-saving alternative for the individuals who find themselves in the snares of opioid addiction.