Colo.- - With opioid overdoses at an all time high nationwide, some Colorado patients have turned to another form of relief.
Marc Hood, of Paonia, said he began taking opiates back in 2003 after he was involved in a backhoe accident that left him practically crippled. "It’s the only way I’d be able to walk, to control the pain enough to be able to walk, to have any type of life with my kids.”
Hood said in order to manage the lasting pain from his injury, he constantly needed to take a number of different pain killers.
At one time he said he was taking 2,000 mg of morphine twice a day extended release, 45 mg of OxyContin, a total of 580 per month, 4 mg of Dilauded, a total of 120 a month, and 1400 mg of Gabapentin four times a day. “The amounts they had me one it was scary, I don’t know how I lived.”
These medications affected everything from his weight, to his ability to function, and ultimately drove a wedge between him and his wife. "He missed out on a lot. You couldn't talk to him, he'd nod off just like a heroin addict, very moody" said Marc's wife Kristen.
In fear of losing everything he's ever loved, including his own live, Hood decided to substitute his pain killers with medicinal cannabis, per a doctors recommendation.
In place of the opiates that once controlled his life he began using various forms of medical cannabis, and he even started to legally grow his medication on his property.
For his back pain Hood creates cannabis infused topical creams or salves, and at times will drink marijuana concentrate. He said much of the methods he uses to treat his discomfort, don't cause him any sort of impairment.
Hood said he now gains more relief from a weed, then he ever dreamed of getting from a pill.
“I’m off the oxygen, I walk without a cane, go for walks, take my dog for a walk, so its nice”
Hood isn't alone in his search for comfort in another form of drug though, as Dr. Lawrence Hannon, a Colorado cannabis doctor, said he constantly sees patients who want off the opiates. "Patients come in and they say please help me I'm on these horrible medicines and I don't want to be, but the suffering so bad, my life is dysfunctional if I can't treat my pain."
Hannon said medicinal marijuana can be used to treat a number of ailments, from severe pain to even cancer, and he hopes cannabis can be used as a solution to decreasing the number of opioid overdoses across the country. "We lose 20 thousand plus people to prescription opioids and I think it's a shame that we could just save those lives if we could offer them something safe and effective which we have it's just demon weed that's not okay."
Some studies published in the last few years back up Doctor Hannon's Claim. One published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that states that have legalized medicinal marijuana, have an almost 25% lower average of opioid overdoses annually, compared with others that don't.
"Recent studies suggest that we're seeing a reversal. Where opiate deaths were declining, all of a sudden with the legalization the trend is going the opposite direction" said Kent Hutchison, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Even with these studies, Dr. Larry Wolk, the Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said it's too soon to tell."Data lags behind and also most of the credible research has to be done through institutions through higher learning--university's and such-- who receive federal funding, who actually would jeopardize federal funding if they were to research marijuana."
These regulations are what make it hard for researchers, like Hutchison, to even move forward with cannabis research. "The fear is if you violate the federal law, they'll come and take away the 3, 400 million dollars in grants."
While Dr. Wolk said data is still several years away, organizations like the CDPHE are funding millions of dollars in cannabis research.