For thousands of Texans, medical cannabis offers an effective treatment for chronic pain and other symptoms caused by qualifying medical conditions without the harmful side effects of opioid medications. As Texas continues to battle an opioid crisis, growing scientific research and testimonials from physicians and patients suggest that the therapeutic effects of medical cannabis are significant and may provide a safer solution to relieving chronic pain.
The Rise of Opioid Overdose Deaths in Texas
Opioid-involved overdose deaths have continued to rise in Texas in recent years. In 2021, 4,813 Texans died from an opioid overdose, a 16% increase in just one year. In Harris County alone, deaths involving synthetic opioids skyrocketed by 341%, according to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences data. As fatalities continue to rise, there is a growing need to combat opioid addiction and provide Texans a safer alternative to treat chronic pain.
How Did the Opioid Crisis Begin?
The opioid crisis began in the 1990s after opioid-caused deaths started to rise following a sharp increase in opioid prescriptions administered to treat pain. During this time, pharmaceutical companies reassured medical professionals that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioids. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, this claim led healthcare providers to begin prescribing opioids more frequently, resulting in a rise in overdose deaths from prescription opioids. While systems have been implemented to monitor prescription dispensing, opioids are still finding their way into communities through illegal production and trafficking.
The use of heroin began to rise in 2010, leading to the next spike in overdose deaths. Soon after, in 2013, fentanyl deaths began to rise, leading us to where we are today, with drug overdoses from synthetic opioids being the number one cause of death from unintentional injury. In recent years, several states have turned to medical cannabis to offer a safer alternative to opioids and reduce overdoses. In Texas, medical cannabis is available for many conditions, including neuropathy, spasticity, multiple sclerosis, cancer and many more. However, chronic pain is not currently a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in Texas.
Medical Cannabis for Chronic Pain
One of the main concerns of using opioids for pain treatment is the potential for misuse and addiction. In addition, the effects of opioid use may lead to other life-threatening side effects like immunosuppression, respiratory depression, constipation and more. On the contrary, medical cannabis has not been linked to these side effects and there have been zero reported overdose deaths from medical cannabis. Recent research indicates that certain cannabinoids can produce analgesia, or pain relief, by regulating neural activity in the brain, allowing patients to reduce opioid medications and other prescriptions. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is vital in regulating many body functions, including our body's response to pain. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with the system's cannabinoid receptors to reduce pain, regulate mood, reduce inflammation and more.
Is Medical Cannabis Legal in Texas?
Medical cannabis is legal in Texas for a wide range of conditions approved under the Compassionate Use Program in Texas. The Texas Compassionate Use Act established guidelines that allow physicians registered through the Texas Compassionate Use Registry (CURT) to prescribe medical cannabis to patients with qualifying conditions. The CUP has opened new doors for patients and doctors to work together to alleviate and manage symptoms of qualifying conditions.
Patients can receive a prescription for medical cannabis for the following conditions:
- Neuropathy (Nerve Pain)
- Spasticity (Muscle Spasms)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
- All forms of epilepsy and other seizure disorders
- Autism and other spectrum disorders
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Huntington’s Disease
- Over 100 other incurable neurodegenerative diseases
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