Many get addicted, and when the pills run out, they seek a street substitute.
“Heroin use, which used to be concentrated among low-income men in urban areas, now cuts across regions and demographic groups,” The Economist continues. “It is rampant in rural and suburban areas, like West Virginia and New Hampshire, and increasing among women and Americans in higher income brackets. Among adults aged between 18 and 25, heroin use has more than doubled in the last ten years. The problem has come increasingly into public view as police find users unconscious or dead in bathrooms, restaurants, parks, and libraries.”
The spread of medical marijuana is promising. As the Washington Post reported earlier this year:
Marijuana is effective at treating pain
A big meta-analysis of 79 studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association found solid evidence that marijuana is effective at treating chronic pain. The researchers noted “30% or greater improvement in pain with cannabinoid compared with placebo.”
Marijuana is safe when used to treat pain
A Canadian study published last year in the journal Pain found no evidence of serious side effects among medical marijuana users after a year of treatment. Users did report some incidence of “non-serious” side effects, such as coughing and dizziness, however.
Medical marijuana users are less likely to drink or take other painkillers
Research published last year in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review found that 80 percent of medical marijuana users reported substituting pot for painkillers, and 52 percent said they drank less when taking medical marijuana.
“The high rate of substitution for prescribed substances, particularly among patients with pain-related conditions, suggests that further research into cannabis/cannabinoids as a potentially safer substitute for or adjunct to opiates is justified,” the researchers concluded.
States with medical marijuana laws have fewer painkiller overdose deaths
In 2014, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that states with medical marijuana laws saw a 24.8 percent reduction in opioid overdose deaths, compared with states without such laws. That worked out to about 1,700 fewer deaths in 2010 alone.
Medical marijuana availability decreases the rate of opioid dependency and death
An NBER working paper published last year found that the presence of marijuana dispensaries was associated with a 15 percent to 35 percent decrease in substance abuse admissions and a similar drop in opiate overdose deaths.
Still, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to oppose medical marijuana, the NFL still prefers its players to relieve their pain with prescription opioids, and the worse-than-useless War on Drugs rages on, with predictably ruinous consequences.
For example, in St. Louis, one of America’s most dangerous cities, turf wars among drug dealers responding to an influx of cheap heroin from a Mexican cartel fueled a sharp spike in the murder rate, according to a weekend story in The New York Times. “In a trend mimicked in large cities nationally, many of the heroin consumers in St. Louis are young whites in their 20s, who drive into the city from suburbs and distant rural areas,” the newspaper reports. “And while most heroin overdose victims here are white, nearly all of the shooting victims and suspects in St. Louis this year have been African-American men and boys, police data shows.”