Speaking at an event in Tampa on Tuesday to celebrate Ronald Regan’s birthday, Sessions said his goal for 2018 is to see a greater decline in the number of opioids prescribed (he said last year there was a 7 percent decline).
“That may be an exaggerated number, they had it as high as 80 percent. We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too,” Sessions said. “But we’ll see what the facts show, but we need to reduce the prescription abuse and hopefully reduce the addiction that’s out there.
On Wednesday, Sessions doubled down on his previous remarks during a speech to Tampa law enforcement.
“I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids. People need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little bit,” Sessions said, then cited White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as someone who refused to take painkillers after surgery on his hand. “You can get through these things.”
CHRONIC PAIN SUFFERERS ARE SOME OF THE TOUGHEST PEOPLE THAT YOU WILL EVER ENCOUNTER…
LITTLE JEFF SESSIONS HAD OBVIOUSLY NEVER BEEN IN CHRONIC PAIN. LET HIM LIVE A WEEK WITH WHAT I ENDURE DAY IN AND DAY OUT. HE’LL BE SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE. HE SHOULD LEGALIZE MARIJUANA FOR PEOPLE IN CHRONIC PAIN SO THEY CAN WEAN OFF OF OPIODS.
Sessions’ comments are at odds with data on opioid use and addiction. The opioid crisis claimed approximately 63,000 lives in 2016, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. However, synthetic opioids like fentanyl caused about a third of these deaths — which have increased 88 percent per year since 2013. Heroin caused about a fourth, and prescription opioids caused 23 percent, down from 26 percent in 2009.
Studies show the majority of people prescribed opioids do not become addicted (only between 1 and 12 percent develop an addiction). And a 2017 study found that 51.9 percent of people entering treatment for opioid use disorder started with prescription opioids, which is down from 84.7 percent in 2005. Among those, research has found that 75 percent of all opioid misuse starts with medication not prescribed to them.
Research has also suggested that marijuana is correlated with lower opioid use. Studies have found that states with legal marijuana dispensaries have fewer opioid deaths and that chronic pain patients who use marijuana use fewer opioids.
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