Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute of Health.
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The misuse and addiction of these prescription pain killers has ignited President Donald Trump to formally declare it a national emergency—which is expected this week.
Cardiothoracic surgeon and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz said the biggest problem causing the epidemic is that many doctors were misled on the safety of the narcotics early on.
“We were duped as physicians into believing that these opioids were safe enough to prescribe willy-nilly,” Oz told FOX Business.
The truth, he adds, is that he is unaware of a valid study showing the long-term benefits of chronic pain in the first place.
“I don’t even know if chronic pain is well-managed with opioids and I’m beginning to think it’s not. So, why are we prescribing pain medication like opioids for that problem?” Oz said.
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Instead he believes the government should be exploring other options to treat pain, like medical marijuana.
“I think medical marijuana might offer an option to help prevent you from ever getting opioids in the first place, and maybe help in getting you off of them,” he said. “I’m seeing more and more studies hoping to do this but we are not allowing scientists to study comfortably the rule of medical marijuana on our health.”
He says government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are holding American citizens back from benefitting from marijuana, which has no known lethal complications, while allowing opioids, a very expensive option which is known to be a lethal substance.
“You see the hypocrisy,” he says. “These decisions are not being made by physicians, but rather are being enforced by law enforcement, the DEA in particular, to do something they really don’t need to do.”
Oz said the government needs to step in and change its views on the drug before it’s too late.
“I have a petition that I started circulating and we have 65,000 signatures already of Americans infuriated by the fact that our government is getting in the way of what states are now deciding what is best for their citizens. More than half the states are now ruling that medical marijuana makes sense but at the same time it is an inconsistent policy,” he explained.