Many feel that marijuana is the answer to the opioid crisis. Since medical marijuana has proven to be effective in fighting pain, it makes sense to legalize it and use it in place of addictive medications. However, this barely solves one issue. Prescription opioids also referred to as natural and semi-synthetic opioids, were the big factor for the first wave of this crisis. Some examples are Oxy, aka hillbilly heroin, and hydrocodone. This first wave started in the 1990's and while it was the leading cause of opioid deaths until recently; the second and third waves have skyrocketed to higher overdose rates than those of prescription opioids faster.
The second wave of opioid overdose deaths come from heroin. In 2010 overdose deaths skyrocketed to new levels in an extremely short time frame. In 2013 we see a huge rise in deaths from overdoses due to use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Legalizing marijuana would barely start to help with this crisis. I am a firm believer in medical marijuana. However, we are assuming people already addicted to opioids are going to turn to weed just because it is legal. Which is slightly ridiculous.
One aspect of the opioid crisis that is constantly being overlooked is the children of those who are addicted. The average length of a hospital stay for a newborn is 2.1 days and will cost about $3,500. A baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is a result of opioid use during pregnancy, will be in the hospital an average of 16.9 days and cost an average of $66,700. A baby is born dealing with opioid withdrawal every 25 minutes.
One thing we can all do is learn what Narcan is, and how to use it. Narcan is an emergency nasal spray given to people who have or may have overdosed on opioids. The twist: anyone can learn how to use it and dispense it. It is not a replacement for emergency care, but when used right away it can save lives. Some may argue this encourages opioid use, however, if you know anyone who has lost someone to this epidemic, the ability to save a loved one from dying outweighs anything else. Go to the official website for Narcan for instructional videos on what to do when you suspect someone has overdosed, how to dispense Narcan, what to do while waiting for first responders, and where you can get Narcan.
Kentucky made national headlines when the state decided to put free Narcan in schools, Kentucky isn't the only state either. Let that sink in. We have let this issue go so far, that we are giving high school nurses free Narcan.