Board tables vote on using marijuana for opioid addiction
People addicted to opioids or in withdrawal will have to wait to find out whether they can use medical marijuana to reduce their dependence on narcotic painkillers or heroin.
The state Department of Consumer Protection’s Board of Physicians, after hearing testimony Monday from about 20 patients and marijuana dispensary owners, decided to table a vote on adding opioid use disorder and opiate withdrawal to the list of approved conditions for cannabis, Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull said Wednesday.
“There were a number of really brave patients who came in … and talked about their experience with painkillers and other medications,” Seagull said.
Opioid addiction, which can begin with a prescription for painkillers such as oxycontin, has become a national health emergency. According to the state’s chief medical examiner, 1,040 people died from opioid overdoses in Connecticut in 2017, up from 917 in 2016.
Seagull said many of those who testified in favor of adding opioids to the list of approved conditions were using medical marijuana for pain from another disease or disorder, such as cancer or spinal cord damage. She said the pharmacists who dispense medical marijuana “were observing that a lot of patients were able to reduce or eliminate their use of opioids for pain.”
She said the Board of Physicians, of which Seagull is an ex officio member, “wanted to get more information from addiction specialists and that community, to make sure they’re fully considering the issue.”
The date of the next board meeting has not been set, Seagull said.
The board also decided to table a vote on progressive degenerative disc disease of the spine, approved osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder causing bones to break easily, and rejected albinism (nystagmus), which affects vision. All votes were unanimous.