Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart was recently grilled by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on the differences between marijuana and hard drugs. The exchange ended up being quite humorous, as Leonhart dodged and weaved around every question that was thrown at her. Some of the highlights include Leonhart being unable to say if heroin is worse than marijuana, along with her declaration that prescription drug abuse was now the DEA’s top priority.
Polis ended up cornering the slippery Leonhart by pointing out that marijuana is able to reduce prescription drug use and dependence by providing patients with a safe non-addictive alternative, and then demanding to know if the DEA would support marijuana legalization since it helps combat the agency’s “top priority.” Shockingly, Leonhart responded by saying, “We will look at any option for reducing drug addiction.” Of course, no one actually believes that, but it was fun to hear a DEA administrator go on the record saying she would support marijuana legalization should it prove to be effective at reducing prescription drug abuse.
The Daily Mail recently published an article pointing out that prescription pain killers have overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in America. It may surprise people to find out that prescription pain killers are often more dangerous than raw opiates. For example, hydrocodone is a relatively safe semi-synthetic opioid found in many popular prescription pain medications. However, the threat of death from an overdose is intentionally added to hydrocodone products by the inclusion of less effective acetaminophen (Tylenol). Acetaminophen poisoning is the leading cause of acute liver failure in America and the U.K.
Pure hydrocodone will not cause liver failure in the event of an overdose and it is more effective at relieving pain than acetaminophen. The same is true with other semi-synthetic opioid medications, such as oxycodone. People who abuse hydrocodone often use a method of cold water extraction to filter out the acetaminophen in the prescription medications to make them safer to consume.
Meanwhile, marijuana has proven to be an effective alternative to opioid pain medications, while presenting no threat of an overdose and no physically addictive properties.