20 Science Questions

that U.S. presidential candidates were asked in 2016

20 Science Questions for the 2016 Presidential Candidates  --by Shawn Otto for sciencedebate.org; See the questions here: #17.

Opioid Epidemic

​There is an opioid problem in this nation, possibly due in part to an ineffective health care problem in this country, and to a food supply that may not be providing adequate amounts of specialized nutrients such as phospholipids and trace minerals such as magnesium, iodine, and selenium.

     Fewer people would have chronic pain if the underlying concern was identified and resolved rather than maintaining the patient on painkillers. Opioids don’t even work effectively for diabetic patients unless magnesium is given at the same time and giving the magnesium alone was also found to be an effective pain killer for diabetic patients.  

     Recognizing that addiction can be based in genetic differences rather than ‘the moral failing of a weak-willed individual’ could also help. Adequate treatment for people with addiction problems is often not available because addiction treatment is often focused on making the patient withdraw from the drug to which they are addicted, without the medical support of a prescription that could help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms the patient would have to suffer through.

    Treating people with addictions as someone with moral failings rather than as a person with genetic differences may not help them recover as well as admitting that the problem of addiction may be physically based rather than just being a mental choice or moral failing.

     Death can be a result of withholding medications that can help reduce severity of the symptoms associated with withdrawal from opioid based drugs. Naloxone given quickly within the time of an opioid overdose can save the patient’s life. Opioid overdoses have become more common because street drugs are being produced and sold as real opioid prescriptions but the strength of the street drug can be more potent than the prescription version and the more potent street drug version can cause death rapidly due to overdoses.

     Opioid prescription medications have also become gateway drugs for heroin abuse. Heroin can be cheaper and easier for individuals to find on the black market than prescription pills, whether real or fake.

     For safety in case of overdoses, it has been suggested to simply prescribe a dose of naloxone along with an opioid prescription, so patients can have it in case of a medical emergency due to an overdose of their prescription painkiller. [1] However that strategy wouldn’t help the people who got the black market fake version that is too potent for safety. Having the antidote drug, naloxone/Narcan, available in emergency vehicles and police stations has also been discussed. [2]

     There are genetic differences in the cannabinoid receptor system that are associated with addictions to a variety of substances including opioids and heroin. Changing the Schedule of marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3, or declassifying it as a controlled substance altogether, could help reduce the number of opioid deaths and opioid addictions.

     Early results from states that have approved medical marijuana have shown a reduced use of a variety of medications including prescription painkillers. [3, 4]

     If someone has a genetic defect that makes them unable to make phospholipids then they would be unable to make cannabinoids and would need an external source and might experience increased cravings for food, alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, or opioids, and possibly cocaine but there is less of association with cocaine and genetic differences in the cannanbinoid system then for other commonly abused drugs, alcohol abuse, or eating disorders.

     Is a genetic difference a sign of ‘moral failing'? Or a sign of a genetic difference that means there is a need for individualized nutrient support? The second answer is my answer.


  1. ​Pauline Anderson,  Naloxone Prescribed With Every Opioid? , (March 7, 2016)  Medscape.com,  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/859993
  2. Brad Avery, The Cost of an Overdose,  (May 21, 2016, Metrowest Daily News)  http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20160521/cost-of-overdose
  3. http://www.newsweek.com/states-medical-marijuana-painkiller-deaths-drop-25-266577
  4. http://www.natural.news/2016-01-27-opioid-related-deaths-decrease-by-25-percent-in-states-with-medical-marijuana-program.html