As more medical professionals begin to turn away from opioid pain relievers, some are advocating a new medicine for pain relief: marijuana.
Even the NFL Players Association has announced it will research cannabis to see if it can provide effective relief for football players who deal with pain on a daily basis.
And in South Carolina, a bastion of conservatism, state lawmakers are considering changes to the law that would allow the use of medical marijuana, which is already legal in 28 states. One of the primary reasons is that many see it as a safer alternative for those suffering from pain, rather than the use of prescriptive opioids.
“I’m tired of seeing people suffering,” Rep. Eric Bedingfield, a Republican, told the Associated Press. His 26-year-old son died in 2016 after battling opioid addiction for years, something that started after he was treated for pain from a high school soccer injury.
Giving doctors the ability to prescribe medical marijuana could save lives, he said.
Marijuana Pain Relief: A Natural Choice
Marijuana advocates point out that cannabis is a more natural choice that prescription drugs and has not led to such widespread addiction issues.
Even the National Cancer Institute points out that cannabis has been used for medical treatment for at least 3,000 years. The U.S. Congress deemed it a narcotic in 1951 and listed it as a Schedule I illegal drug in 1970, along with drugs such as heroin and LSD.
Before that, the National Cancer Institute notes, cannabis “came into use in Western medicine in the 19th century and was said to relief pain, inflammation, spasms, and convulsions.”
Dr. Gene Dorio, a Santa Clarita, Calif., physician, frequently advocates the use of marijuana as a painkiller on a morning radio show he co-hosts with an 80-year-old cancer survivor, Barbara Cochran. Cochran says she managed to survive cancer because of medical marijuana.
“People who are bedridden have diffuse pain that over-the-counter drugs just won’t relieve. They’re just not effective. There’s no doubt that marijuana works on many different ailments,” Dorio told L.A. Weekly last year.
NFL and Marijuana
In an announcement at the Super Bowl in Houston, NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith said the association wants to look at “the issue of cannabis” from a medical perspective.
“We will be looking and asking the people who have looked and researched the issue of cannabis, are there legitimate medical uses, under what circumstances could they be used and what circumstances may it make sense that this union would support a therapeutic use exemption,” he said.
“We’re not there yet. We’re looking at the issue comprehensively when it comes to medical marijuana, but we’re looking at it as an issue of pain.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said changes to the drug policy are possible, but has not said anything specific about what those changed could be. Former players have advocated changing the policy to allow for the use of marijuana as a pain treatment.