The opioid epidemic has exploded in the United States over the last several years. And it has hit our brave men and women in the military at an alarming rate. We have been in a long and gruesome war in the Middle East since 9/11. Not only have we lost thousands of soldiers, but we have tens of thousands of Wounded Warriors.
My close friend, Ryan, was one of the first units deployed to Afghanistan after the World Trade Towers became a pile of rubble in downtown New York City. Ryan is a Marine and was extremely healthy and fit in his early 20's as he went over seas for the first time. But Ryan and members of his unit were blown up as they were driving on a dirt road in Afghanistan. Not everyone survived the blast, but Ryan was lucky enough to make it. He ended up serving 3 tours in the United States fight against Al Queda and Osama Bin Laden.
Today, Ryan is a physical shell of the warrior that fought so bravely years ago. He walks with a cane and has excruciating back and leg pain that keeps him from getting out of bed some days. But Ryan isn't an elderly man. In fact, he won't even turn 40 for a few years. He has been taking opioids on a daily basis for years, that were prescribed by his doctors at the V.A. But they have also been hard on his body. If he doesn't take them, he gets sick.. so the cycle continues. Ryan did try medical cannabis last year and that has been the best relief he has felt in years. But he had to jump through a million hoops to get approved for a medical cannabis card in Illinois.
Why isn't our government embracing medical cannabis? The side effects are minimal compared to opioids. There aren't withdrawals when you stop taking it. And it doesn't even have to be smoked. Most people take their medical cannabis in pill form or gummies or in cookies.
Our government HAS embraced opioids for decades. Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars every year from prescriptions. And when a persons prescription is empty, they are turning to the black market to get the same pills they were just picking up from their local Walgreens. OxyContin has gotten as expensive as $50 per pill. Once a person can't afford that, they turn to a much cheaper high, heroin. This is a cycle that is killing people across the country and devastating families everywhere. It's time to take a harder look at how we help our Veterans and our family members deal with chronic pain.
Do you know anyone with an opioid addiction? Do you have chronic pain and how do you deal with it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers!