Proposal for Illinois medical marijuana laws to combat opioid crisis

(KFVS) - More and more doctors in the state of Illinois are speaking up about using medical cannabis as a possible pain management treatment in the place of opioids.

This comes after a proposal from Illinois State Senator Don Harmon in October called the Alternative to Opioids Act, which would allow patients who qualify for opioid prescriptions to receive a temporary medical marijuana card after a 14-day application process.

In 2016, there were 2,278 overdose deaths in the state of Illinois according to the Department of Human Services, with 80% of them being opioid-related.

As of December 6, 2017, there are 28,400 medical cannabis card holders in the state of Illinois according to the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

Donny Spurlock is one of those cardholders who made the switch from multiple prescriptions for pain and PTSD after he was struck by an IED while serving in Iraq.

"I've been just a little over a year now with cannabinoids. I have taken zero anti-anxiety medication, zero opioids," Spurlock said.

Doctors like Jeff Ripperda in Murphysboro are skeptical when it comes to medical marijuana.

"Right now, there's just not the level of science there to support using medical marijuana as a medication for really anything," Ripperda said.

Dr. Ripperda believes cases like Donny's tend to be related to the placebo effect. He said if patients really want a medicine to work, there is more likelihood that it will.

Regardless of why medical cannabis helps, Spurlock said he doesn't have serious problems with his pain and PTSD and truly believes he is living a better life.

"It doesn't change who I am. It changes my mental state a little bit, but not so dramatically that I feel like a zombie, or that I can't interact with my kids or I can't talk to my family," he said.

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