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Senators Urge Trump Administration to Consider Cannabis as Opioid Alternative

July 19, 2017
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks to reporters looking for comment on the Senate Republican healthcare bill on his way to a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on July 12, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
As the Trump administration works to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis, a pair of US senators have submitted a number of suggested reforms to the White House—including the use of medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid-based painkillers.

“In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.”
Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal

In correspondence sent to the President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal submitted a number of recommendations, including ideas on how those who are fighting the opioid epidemic can work together more efficiently, and how addiction treatment and prevention programs can be implemented more effectively.

“We write today to submit to you recommendations that we gathered from community leaders from across Connecticut at a recent Opioid Summit,” wrote the senators, who spent much of last week in Connecticut at a summit on the state’s opioid epidemic.

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“As you know, the opioid epidemic is devastating communities across the nation and more must be done to combat this crisis,” they told the commission. “In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.” We urge you to use these comments as you develop the interim and final reports for President Trump.”

In the report, the two Democratic lawmakers identify what they feel are some of best way to curb opioid overdoses. Among the recommendations: “exploring alternatives to opioids for pain management, (i.e. medical marijuana).”

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“The powerful drug fentanyl was involved in the deaths of 483 people—a staggering 544 percent increase since just a couple of years ago,” the senators note. “In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.”

To date, not one recorded fatality has resulted from a cannabis overdose.

Murphy and Blumenthal also sent Gov. Chris Christie a letter to notify him about the recommendations sent to Trump. Here’s the letter in its entirety:

Dear Governor Christie:

We write today to submit to you recommendations that we gathered from community leaders from across Connecticut at a recent Opioid Summit. As you know, the opioid epidemic is devastating communities across the nation and more must be done to combat this crisis. We urge you to use these comments as you develop the interim and final reports for President Trump.

The Opioid Summit we convened brought together local residents, law enforcement, first responders, treatment providers, and community organizations. Participants heard Dr. James Gill, Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner, give a sobering presentation about the state of this crisis in Connecticut. Dr. Gill said that opioids were present in 93 percent of the 917 people who died in 2016 from a drug overdose. The powerful drug fentanyl was involved in the deaths of 483 people – a staggering 544 percent increase since just a couple of years ago. In 2016, more people in Connecticut died from drug overdoses than from homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined. Following Dr. Gill’s presentation, attendees broke into small groups to develop the enclosed recommendations. Your colleague in this effort, Dr. Bertha Madras, closed the Summit with some thoughtful insights on the opioid crisis.

As the administration’s opioid task force continues its work, we want to emphasize and echo comments that you heard during your inaugural meeting in June regarding the role of Medicaid, the federal mental health parity law, and the federal Essential Health Benefits standard. Medicaid is the largest payer for addiction and mental health treatment, and any legislation that cuts billions from it will hurt our efforts to combat this epidemic. Likewise, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the private insurance coverage gains from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped millions of Americans get the care they need. Two experts recently estimated that 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder, including about 220,000 with an opioid disorder, would lose some or all of their insurance coverage if the ACA were repealed. We, like most Americans, are opposed to this approach and urge the Trump administration to build on the work of the ACA by making treatment more available to Americans in need.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these recommendations.

Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy

Richard Blumenthal

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Gage Peake

Gage Peake is a former staff writer for Leafly, where he specialized in data journalism, sports, and breaking news coverage. He's a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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  • kristine08

    These are MY senators of Connecticut! Hurray for logic and also for an alternative way to wean down off opioid’s.
    Through a workers compensation injury in 1997,(I just had 2 spinal fusions with 2 artificial discs implanted and a plate) I was taking opioids, for years, before I was “approved” by GALLAGER BASSETT insurance, to get these long overdue surgeries.
    I was on 120MGS per day of oxycodone and/or avinza. I knew it was all bad for me, but NO physician that I had would help.
    I bought a pill splitter, and started cutting pills in half and the halves in half.
    The second surgery (3 months ago) put me back on a higher dose initially. Once again, I am reducing, on my own, but with the help of “vaping” CBD cannabis oil in the day, then indica oil at bedtime, I WILL be able to get to the lowest dose possible.
    Because I am also taking Klonopin (also addictive, but nobody cares!) I am going to need to go to a suboxone clinic, to get off the final tiniest dose.
    I tried last summer, but it “got too weird”, so I took a .5mg pill.
    I called 5 clinics that turned me away, because they do not want the liability, of what others prescribed. They all told me “do not try to end that last amount on your own”. (BUT YOU WON’T HELP ME)
    I called Blumenthals office (he does not handle CT STATE ISSUES) but even so, I reminded his staff, that he is speaking out about opioids, so why not make him know, the WORKERS COMPENSATION commission, needs to have a rehab program for those injured on the job, who get addicted due to very invasive surgeries.
    BIG PHARM is not going to be liking this!