Dr. Oz Petitions the U.S. Government to Study Medical Marijuana

As a doctor, one of my primary responsibilities is to alleviate pain, and I’m always on the lookout for new and more effective treatments. For years, we’ve used opiates to treat pain and today we are in the throes of an addiction epidemic. Each day the opioid crisis sends over 1000 people to the emergency room and takes 91 lives. Doctors need new pain medications that don’t have the ability to kill like opioids do.

I believe medical cannabis could do just that and I’m calling on the federal government to fund the research we need to prove it.

Outdated beliefs and policies have prevented our country from funding medical cannabis research, but the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has reviewed other scientific research and found evidence that patients treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms. Yet the government still says cannabis has no proven medical value.

About twenty years ago, my colleagues and I were sold a bill of goods on a new strategy to treat people suffering from chronic pain. Opioids were the answer, and we were led to believe that not only were they effective, but that they couldn’t be addictive. Unfortunately, it took a national emergency to realize that the quadrupling of opioid prescriptions that resulted from these teachings was actually a problem. Not only are opioids in fact highly addictive, according to the CDC, there is actually little evidence that they are even effective at relieving chronic pain.

I was duped.  It’s hard to admit it, but I have to face the facts. To make sure it never happens again, I’m asking you to sign this petition.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds much of our nation’s medical research, allots only $111 million dollars to cannabis research.  This sounds like a large number, but it represents a mere 0.3 percent of NIH’s total spending on research and is only 0.1 percent of the cost of the opioid epidemic.  This is a drop in the bucket for something that experts believe could have the potential to help in our fight against the number one killer of adults under 50.  Studies already suggest that states with medical cannabis laws have a 25 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.

Almost half of opioid deaths are due to the overdose of prescription drugs. While heroin is responsible for much of the other half, research suggests that 4 out of 5 heroin users started with prescription drugs. I have traveled around the country and met countless families who needlessly lost their sons and daughters, husbands and wives to addiction. In addition to the obvious emotional costs of this epidemic, the financial burden is exorbitant. The opioid crisis costs our economy over $78 billion per year.

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