FORT WASHINGTON, Md. – Top official at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz MD, PhD said at a behavioral health conference on Monday.
“For too many years, we have simply heard a message from an industry that makes… billions of dollars … about how safe this drug is. I’m here to tell you this is not a safe drug,” McCance-Katz said, according to MedPage.com. Her comments came during a town hall event at the National Council for Behavioral Health’s annual conference.
“Americans have a right to know that and we should be telling them that,” she added.
McCance-Katz also said that cannabis was shown by studies to increase likelihood of opiate use, disputing increasing study data that indicates medical cannabis may prove an effective alternative treatment for preventing opioid relapse and easing symptoms of addiction.
“… Marijuana use was associated with substantially increased risk of addiction and overdose for opioids,” she said, citing a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
During the event, McCance-Katz also warned of illicit fentanyl-laced cocaine, which was referred to as a “speedball.” She warned that cocaine users without knowledge of, or experience with opioids were at increased risk of overdose and “likely to die” from exposure to the powerful narcotic combination.
McCance-Katz, who designed physician programs for opioid addiction treatment prior to her post at SAMHSA, also spoke about increasing efforts to train new generations of healthcare providers in treating opioid use disorders.