MIAMI – Opioid abuse is a problem across the nation, so doctors are looking for alternatives to the addictive prescriptions. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. Some advocates say legalizing medical marijuana could help curb the nation’s drug crisis.
Christine Stenquist had a brain tumor, fibromyalgia and debilitating headaches, chronic pain and that led to 45 different prescription drugs.
“Migraines were just constant so they started me on a lot of pharmaceuticals and that went on for 16 years,” Christine explained.
Between the pain and the opioids, the mother of four was bedridden. Eventually, she decided to give medical marijuana a try.
“This is a whole different lifestyle. I’m eating healthier, I’m more active, more alert,” she said.
Stenquist is one of a many Americans who’ve traded in their painkillers for the green alternative.
Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows in states where medical marijuana is legal, opioid overdose deaths are down as much as 25-percent.
“When we look at tools to combat the opioid crisis, I think it’s amazing that medical cannabis is a tool we can use,” said Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access.
Sherer is the founder of Americans for Safe Access.
“At the heart of all of our challenges is the fact that the federal government sees cannabis as more dangerous than methamphetamines or cocaine.”
The DEA warned that there's high potential for the abuse of medical marijuana. Attorney General Jeff Sessions described marijuana as “only slightly less awful” than heroin.
“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if it can just have more marijuana,” said Sessions.
Dr. Carla Rossotti Vazquez treats pain patients and disagrees.
“I’ve had patients that since they’ve been using their vaporizers with cannabis they’ve decreased their use of Ambien, of Clonazepam, of Percocet,” she said.
“Within 6 months I was driving, within 8 months I was figuring out how to pass a law in my state,” said Stenquist.
Stenquist knows in her home state of Utah, that could be an uphill battle.
Deaths from prescription painkillers have more than quadrupled since 1999 according to the CDC. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
It also looked at overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015. North Carolina had a significant increase, which is up 14.5%
Right now there is a bill floating through the house and senate to legalize medical marijuana in our state. This is just one of many that's been proposed over the last several years. It was last discussed in the senate and referred to a committee in April.