According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, there were 1,635 prescription opioid-related overdose deaths in the state between 2013-2017. Colorado, like much of the country, is embroiled in an opioid epidemic that many believe is closely tied to the over-prescription of popular pain-relief medications like OxyContin. Some Colorado lawmakers aim to change that with Senate Bill 13, a new piece of bipartisan legislation scheduled to go into effect August 2nd, 2019.
What is Colorado Senate Bill 13?
Colorado Senate Bill 13 grants physicians in the state the right to prescribe medical marijuana for any condition previously treated by opioid medications. How does it work? As explained by the Colorado General Assembly, Colorado Senate Bill 13, “adds a condition for which a physician could prescribe an opiate to the list of disabling medical conditions that authorize a person to use medical marijuana for his or her condition.” The law applies to both minors and adults.
Pros and Cons of Colorado Senate Bill 13
While medical marijuana proponents largely support the new legislation, some physicians and addiction doctors are concerned. Here’s a rundown of what both sides have to say:
- Pro: The new law is predicted to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Colorado
- Pro: Marijuana is arguably a safer pain management option than opioids
- Con: The law allows doctors to replace a highly regulated, FDA-approved treatment for pain with marijuana, a substance that is largely unregulated
- Con: Marijuana is not a benign substance and can have negative psychological effects, especially in adolescent patients
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Reading Between the Lines: Medical Marijuana and Opioids
Another likely beneficiary of Colorado Senate Bill 13 could be the state’s slumping medical marijuana industry, which has seen steep declines in the wake of recreational marijuana availability. Does that mean the new legislation is nothing more than a political cash-grab? Former manager of policy for the recently closed Colorado chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, Amanda Bent, would say no.
“We know from research that folks who use opioids tend to use less when supplementing their therapy with medical marijuana, so this is a way for them to avoid it all together, or decide if some kind of complementary use is appropriate after talking with their treatment team,” Bent said.
Ultimately, the new law leaves it up to patients and physicians to work together to determine an appropriate, effective treatment plan for managing temporary pain. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that marijuana, like many prescription medications, can reduce the body’s natural ability to regulate mood, leading frequent users to feel lifeless and agitated when they stop using.
Evidenced-Based Treatment for Addiction in Denver, Colorado
If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction to opioids, marijuana or other substances, The Raleigh House offers a comprehensive continuum of care – from detox and residential treatment to intensive outpatient therapy. To learn more about our whole-person approach to addiction treatment, fill out our form, or call us today to speak with one of our experts.