Medical Marijuana, Opioids and a Deeply Confused Public

Medical marijuana is mostly prescribed for pain in the 18 states and District of Columbia that allow it. Yet it continues to provoke adolescent snickers and inevitable bong jokes.

And addiction to opioid painkillers is anchored in concern about its abuse leading to addiction.

Common to both is public fixation on the illicit and the seamy rather than the humane and the responsible.

Opioid addiction is a serious concern. But it pales in contrast with the potentially toxic consequences for the millions who take opioids for chronic pain with no hint of abuse. Which suggests we’re more concerned as a society that someone may be getting high from medical marijuana than someone may be needlessly dying from overuse of opioid medications like Vicodin, Oxycontin and Percocet.

Opioid prescribing was originally limited to acute pain – generally for cancer and post-surgical patients. Their use has expanded over the years, however, to the...

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