Two lawmakers diverge on issue of opioid addiction

October 29, 2017 - 7:08 PM
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opioid reversal drug
Paramedics display a dose of the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan, or Naloxone Hydrochloride, in an ambulance in Peabody, Massachusetts, US August 8, 2017. REUTERS

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines could find itself in a crisis similar to the United States because of the misuse and addiction to copied substances if Congress passes the bill legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes, partylist Rep. Lito Atienza warned at the weekend.

“What’s happening now in America, which is reeling from the widespread abuse of opioids, is guaranteed to happen here once we allow medical marijuana to be prescribed by Filipino physicians,” Atienza said.

But Isabela Representative Rodito Albano, author of House Bill No. 6517 (Act Providing Filipinos Right of Access to Medical Marijuana) quickly parried the warning, saying the scourge of copied addiction should not be compared to marijuana use for illnesses.

“It’s comparing apples to oranges, it doesn’t make senses,” Albano said.

Atienza warned that the bill that seeks to authorize physicians to prescribe medical marijuana, once enacted, would “open the floodgates to abuse and addiction.”

“The measure will create new demand for marijuana. And when there is demand, supply will come in. Even our farmers will start cultivating marijuana, since they will be assured of a lucrative market by a rapidly growing number of addicts,” Atienza said.

However, Rep. Albano pointed out, “What we are pushing is only for the medical use of marijuana. And, if Congressman Atienza wants to raise alarm over the Filipinos addiction to something, he could look at, say, alcoholic drinks.”

US President Donald Trump had declared a public health emergency over the growing misuse of and addiction to opioids that claim, on average, the lives of 91 Americans every day.

The crisis has been attributed to the over-prescription of opioids, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, as pain medication, causing uncontrolled dependency and fatal overdoses among users.

The House committee on health earlier approved the medical marijuana bill. Plenary debates on the bill are expected to begin when the House reconvenes on November 20.

Atienza said the susceptibility to abuse far outweighs any and all of the unproven benefits of allowing prescription marijuana.

“Marijuana is a poison. No amount of sugar-coating will make the illegal drug less toxic,” he said, adding that even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rejected medical marijuana.