Speaking on the U.S. opioid crisis last week in Ohio, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar shot down medical marijuana as a possible alternative pain management tool, saying "there really is no such thing".
The statement came during a press conference on opioids at an inpatient facility that treats newborns suffering from prenatal drug exposure.
He went on to say, “There is no FDA-approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that.”
Azar was responding to a question about what role he sees medical marijuana playing as an alternative to opioids for pain relief.
In its focus on developing non-addictive pain management drug options, the federal government does not consider medical marijuana an approved treatment, said Azar.
“We are devoting hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of research at our National Institutes of Health as part of the historic $13 billion opioid and serious mental illness program that the president and Congress are funding,” he said.
“Over $750 million just in 2019 alone is going to be dedicated towards the National Institutes of Health working in public-private partnership to try and develop the next generation of pain therapies that are not opioids.”
Unfortunately, Azar -- and the Trump administration in general -- might be jumping the gun in writing off medical marijuana as a possible alternative to opioids.
Though scientists caution more study is necessary, preliminary research suggests that the introduction of medical marijuana might be driving down opioid use, and potentially overdoses as well.
Several studies have shown that medical marijuana has been beneficial to opioid users. A study published last year by researchers at the University of Michigan found chronic pain sufferers who used cannabis saw a 64-percent drop in opioid use.