More than ten million Americans are addicted to painkillers and other opioids, and tens of thousands are dying of overdoses every year. It’s the worst epidemic since crack in the 1980s.
President Trump would tell you the crisis started with Mexican drug traffickers. But he’d be wrong.
The crisis really started with doctors… and an American pharmaceutical company called Purdue.
Purdue makes oxycontin. Oxycontin is derived from opium, just like morphine or heroin. Oxycontin is a new synthetic opioid — like vicodin, oxycodone and fentanyl. Synthetic opioids are much stronger than traditional opioids like heroin or morphine.
How strong? Well, last year The New York Times ran the story of police officer Chris Green from Ohio. He spotted a drug deal on the side of the street, stopped, and arrested the perp. During the arrest, a bag of drugs was torn open.
Later that day at the station, the officer was told he had some dust on the back of his shoulder. He reached back to brush it off.
Next thing he knows he’s waking up in a hospital bed, surrounded by tearful family. When he had touched the dust on his shoulder, he collapsed, and fell into a coma.
The dust on his shoulder was a synthetic opioid called fentanyl. When he brushed it off it made contact with his skin, which caused him to immediately overdose.
Synthetic opioids like oxycontin and fentanyl are ripping through America. The drugs are so strong it’s easy to get hooked, and so strong it’s easy to overdose.
It’s estimated 11.6 million Americans misused them in 2016, and 52,000 died from overdoses. In 2016, 1.5% of all deaths in America were caused by opioids. That’s more than were killed at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968.
So how did Americans get hooked in the first place?
It comes back to the doctors, and Purdue Pharma. In the 1980s, the medical establishment had a change of heart when it comes to pain medication. It decided that pain is a medical problem like any other. A treatable problem. And opioids were the treatment.
Purdue Pharma claimed its synthetic opioid, oxycontin, was a breakthrough in pain medication because it was powerful and completely non-addictive. Purdue pushed oxycontin hard with discounts, giveaways and even themed music albums. Sales reps said it was a drug “to start with and to stay with.”
It was aided by the medical establishment, which said in 1996 that pain was the “fifth vital sign” — something to be treated at all times, like a pulse or temperature.
By the 1990s, doctors were being told to prescribe painkillers left and right. And supposedly non-addictive oxycontin was flooding the market.
Oxycontin categorised itself as non-addictive because it comes in a slow-release tablet. The idea was that the opioid would feed into the patient’s system very gradually; so the patient wouldn’t get a massive, addicting, dose at any one time.
But — as 5,000 years of history with the poppy flower could’ve told you — opiates tend to be addictive. And by the mid 1990s, millions of Americans were now getting prescribed super-strong opiates from their doctors. People who need three days worth of pain relief after a surgery were getting handed 30-day prescriptions.
Once the patients were addicted, and needed a stronger dose, it didn’t take them long to figure out they could crush up their “slow release” oxycontin pills and take the whole lot at once.
Mass-produced pain pills flooded the market, to keep up with demand. Purdue Pharma alone has reportedly made $35 billion from oxycontin.
And of course, lots of pills leaked onto the black market. Users went from prescribed pills to black market pills. Then lots of oxycontin addicts moved from pills to heroin, which is cheaper.
Using opioids to treat pain is like cracking a nut with a sledgehammer. They do get the job done… but they’re un-targeted. They’re ridiculously powerful. And very addictive.
So America’s opiate crisis is a direct consequence of pain treatment. It’s a nightmare of a problem. Chronic pain is terrible; but the treatment is addictive. Pick your poison.
A targeted solution
For a long time, those were the two options. Then doctors started looking more closely at the cannabis plant.
You see, the cannabis plant produces more than 100 chemicals called cannabinoids. And it turns out that cannabinoids are an essential part of the human body. We produce them naturally.
They’re like keys — keys to locks which are found in different parts of our anatomy. The keys interact with the locks and tell the different parts of the body how to function. And they’re everywhere in the body. They control everything from pain to appetite, inflammation, brain development, sleep, the immune system, gut health, and a lot more.
The basic idea of medicinal cannabis is that sometimes, the human body doesn’t produce enough cannabinoids (which are called endocannabinoids, because they’re produced endogenously). And that these problems can be fixed with cannabinoids derived from the plant.
Which problems do I mean? I won’t get into that today. It’s a big topic. Today I want to just focus on pain relief. There’s hardly a more important topic in medicine today.
It turns out that some common forms of chronic pain come from a problem with the endocannabinoid system. These pains can be relieved, not with the sledgehammer of an opioid prescription, but with a targeted dose of cannabinoids.
Take migraines, for example. Cannabinoids have been reported to be ten times more effective than opiates at relieving the pain caused by chronic migraines.
Why? Doctors studied the spinal fluid of those who suffer from chronic migraines and compared it to a control group. They found migraine sufferers had about half the endocannabinoids (reminder: the cannabinoids our body produces naturally) of the control group.
Migraines are just one type of pain, among many. And pain treatment is only one promising avenue for medicinal cannabis research, among many. The cannabinoid system seems to effect almost every function in the body, like a parallel nervous system. And we’re only just discovering it now. It’s a genuinely huge breakthrough.
In the words of cardiac surgeon Dr David Allen, the discovery of the cannabinoid system is “The single most important medical /scientific discovery ever. And will save more lives than the discovery and application of sterile surgical techniques”
Why am I telling you all this?
Because cannabinoids aren’t just of scientific interest. They’re an investment opportunity.
The very first commercial cannabinoid medicines are on their way. Scientists are realising that cannabinoids might be the solution to some of the oldest, hardest problems in medicine — like chronic pain, for example.
It’s all part of a new attitude towards cannabis in the west. The drug is coming out of the shadows. Its being used to treat disease, get high, and make money.
It’s a funny thing. In dozens of countries all around the world, at the same time, governments are legalising cannabis. It’s great for public health and it’s a potentially enormous opportunity for investors.
In my newsletter, Technology Profits Confidential, I’ve recommended three companies which are positioned to profit from the cannabis boom.
And I’ve compiled a report which goes into all this in much greater detail. It shows you in detail what’s changing in the cannabis business, the size of the opportunity, and how you can profit.