The Agenda: Viewpoint on the global opioid epidemic
The UK has approved cannabis-based medicines for use in three national health treatments – it's a milestone decision that could change the lives of thousands of patients. That's because many of those patients could be addicted to opioids, an issue that has become a global epidemic and needs an urgent solution.
For example, last year more than 30,000 Americans died from overdoses of the opioid fentanyl. The fentanyl epidemic has been described as the third wave of the opioid crisis, following the explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and then heroin.
One health official in Washington has been quoted as saying no drug in history has left such a "body count." And it is killing people across the social spectrum: addicts looking for a new high, unsuspecting teenagers popping pills at parties, people in chronic pain looking for cheap opioid relief. The strength of the drug is the game-changer.
Chronic pain, though, is complicated and the reality is there aren't any long-term treatments that work really well for the majority of sufferers. All of that points to the urgency of starting a new conversation about how we use medicines. If medicines work in safe doses they can be life-changing: if they don't, we need to stop prescribing them. It's a simple message that must be heard.