PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Deaths from prescription painkillers have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC says 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.READ MORE: Man Accused Of Entering Center City Law Firm Office, Sexually Assaulting Victim
Doctors are looking at alternatives to addictive prescriptions for treating pain.
With medical marijuana legal in some states, advocates say legalizing it across the country could help curb the nation’s drug crisis.
Christine Stenquist suffered through a brain tumor, fibromyalgia and debilitating headaches as the chronic pain led to 45 different prescription drugs.
“Migraines were just constant, so they started me on a lot of pharmaceuticals and that went on for 16 years,” said Stenquist.
Between the pain and the opioids, the mother of four was left bedridden. She eventually decided to give medical marijuana a try.
“This is a whole different lifestyle,” she said. “I’m eating healthier. I’m more active, more alert.”
Stenquist is one of a growing number of Americans who’ve traded in their powerful and addictive painkillers for the green alternative.READ MORE: Kensington Shooting Leaves 17-Year-Old Girl, Man Injured: Philadelphia Police
Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows in states where medical marijuana is legal, opioid overdose deaths are down as much as 25 percent.
The Drug Enforcement Administration still warns of a high potential for abuse and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has described marijuana as “only slightly less awful” than heroin.
“I reject the idea that America will be a better place if can just have more marijuana,” Sessions said previously.
Dr. Carla Rossotti Vazquez, who treats pain patients, disagrees with Sessions’ assessment.
“I’ve had patients that since they’ve been using their vaporizers with cannabis they’ve decreased their use of Ambien, of clonazepam, of Percocet,” said Dr. Rossotti Vazquez.
“Within six months I was driving, within eight months I was figuring out how to pass a law in my state,” said Stenquist.
Stenquist knows in her home state of Utah that could be an uphill battle.
Medical cannabis is now legal in 29 states, including in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.MORE NEWS: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson To Resign After Mutiny In His Party
Those programs provide access to patients with a legally-approved serious medical condition and they have to have a prescription.