For a Congress infamous for deadlock and division, passing a massive and groundbreaking $6.3 billion piece of legislation would appear to be an impossible task. But the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan effort to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system that includes throwing $1 billion at America’s opioid problem, is being fast-tracked in the House and is expected to pass this week after years of debate and disagreement.
There is no question that America has a serious problem dealing with opiate addiction. In 2014, more than 28,000 U.S. citizens died of an overdose of some form of opiate. That alarming statistic likely has gone up in the past two years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin overdose rates doubled in 28 states from 2010 to 2012. American death rates from prescription opioid pain reliever overdoses quadrupled during 1999–2010, the CDC study found. Medical experts estimate that our nation’s abuse of opioids cost over $72 billion in health costs each year.
Clearly, the $1 billion is needed to do something to solve this crisis. But studies have revealed a less expensive treatment readily available: marijuana.
A RAND study last year found that states with medical marijuana have lower rates of opioid overdose and abuse. Another study this year in Health Affairs found that medical professionals are less prone to prescribe prescription opioids in states that allow marijuana.
The current opioid measure will likely touch the lives of nearly every American, is a mixed bag of regulations targeted at a wide range of issues from reforming mental health to Alzheimer’s research to cancer treatment. But the biggest headline out of the law is the $1 billion earmarked for dealing with America’s growing abuse epidemic.
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Under the broad measure, the federal government will reward states with grants to help fight opioid addiction, including providing greater access to treatment programs.
“It’s encouraging that even in this politically charged moment, Republicans and Democrats have been able to reach a compromise to allow a comprehensive mental health reform bill to pass with major new funding to confront the nation’s opioid crisis,” said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.). “This package will means hundreds of millions of dollars in new care for the mentally ill and those in the middle of crippling addictions.”
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) agrees. “More Americans are dying of drug overdoses than car crashes today. Heroin and opioid abuse is overburdening our child welfare systems, crippling newborn babies with addiction, and impacting our veterans at alarming rates.”
Highway is an essential source for cannabis science, how-to stories and demystifying marijuana. Want to read more? Thy these posts: The Majority Of Americans Now Want Legal Marijuana, Seattle’s Swankiest Marijuana Store Opens Its Doors, and Opioids Out, Cannabis In, Top Medical Research Journal Says.