APA Adopts New Medical Marijuana Policies to Curb America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

APA Adopts New Medical Marijuana Policies to Curb America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

For immediate release:

Apr. 1, 2015

DALLAS – The American Pharmaceutical Association (APA) gathered pharmacological  leaders representing all aspects of medicine during its Interim meeting and voted today to adopt new policies on emerging health care topics. In response to the White House Office of Drug Control Policy and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent classification of prescription drug abuse as an epidemic, the APA issued new guidelines in an attempt to reduce the skyrocketing national mortality rate from prescription medications.

The APA’s House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, medical students and residents representing every state and medical field. Delegates work in a democratic process to create a national pharmacological consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates today include early adoption of medical marijuana as part of complete health care planning for patients in an effort to battle prescription drug overdose death rates higher than the nation has ever seen.

According to the American Medical Association, opioid analgesic overdose mortality continues to rise in the United States, driven by increases in prescribing for chronic pain. Because chronic pain is a major indication for medical cannabis, laws that establish access to medical cannabis may change overdose mortality related to opioid analgesics in states that have enacted them.

One key directive in the new policy calls on the APA to provide leadership by collaborating with cannabis specialists including the American Cannabis Nurses Association to provide medical expertise and guidance that would help ensure that the nation’s health system is adequately prepared to educate the public on the integration of cannabis in whole health care.

An initial statement made by the APA’s House of Delegates regarding the policy shift explained, “Deaths from prescription overdose and abuse have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have reached epidemic proportions now considered to be a national public health crisis. We need to change our approach”.

According to APA spokesperson Dr. Mary J. West, “The APA is quite impressed with recent reports published by JAMA Internal Medicine, specifically the data showing that in states where it is legal to use medical marijuana to manage chronic pain and other conditions, the annual number of deaths from prescription drug overdose is 25 percent lower than in states where medical marijuana remains illegal.” Dr. West further stated, “We cannot ignore this data.”

These findings have become increasingly important as prescription drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. In 2011, 55 percent of drug overdose deaths were related to prescription medications and 75 percent of those involved opioid analgesics, a class of drugs that includes painkillers like morphine, oxycodone and methadone. In comparison, medical marijuana is often much more effective as well as completely safe, with a mortality rate of zero, making it an objectively less harmful addition to a complete medical treatment plan. Taking into account the findings that marijuana is a non-addictive substance compared to highly addictive prescription medications. The APA recommends patients first try cannabis as a safer alternative medication to a long list of conditions.

Furthermore, the APA established a committee to combat the findings of the recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) study which showed that nearly one-third of people age 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically. This evidence shows that the nation’s ‘gateway’ drug is in fact pharmaceuticals. The newly formed committee will work to educate parents on how to discuss addiction prevention within their family, utilizing approaches from organizations like Community Thrive.



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