Surprise — our painkillers are killing us!

News item: When you consume them in high doses, commonly prescribed painkillers including ibuprofen increase your likelihood of having a heart attack within the first month of taking them.

Wow. A drug developed in the 1960s as an alternative to aspirin, available over the counter since 1983 and a medicine-cabinet staple in homes and workplaces across the country can actually make you 20 to 50% more likely to have a heart attack. And it’s not the only one. Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including naproxen and celecoxib — among the most-commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. — can also cause heart attacks within a week, according to Time.

Pain killers often have toxic side effects.

Kenny Easley was an All-Pro defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks when he started taking up to 32 NSAIDs per day. The kidney damage he sustained from taking these pain-killers shortened his Hall of Fame career. We know of this case because of Easley’s fame as a pro football players, but it’s a story that is all-too familiar in the U.S. People take a common pain-killer, available over the counter or by prescription, and over time they develop serious health issues.

It’s not a surprise anymore that pharmaceutical pain-relievers are designed, first and foremost, to return a profit to the companies that manufacture them, right? And we don’t have a government that functions as a protector of the little guy. So there you have it.

Cannabis is safe and effective medicine.

There is a plant you can now pick up at the dispensary in many states that will help you when you’re hurting. It won’t have a negative impact on your heart health, or increase your odds of succumbing to another disease. Compounds in cannabis, including cannabidiol (CBD), relieve pain and reduce inflammation. And it’s safe. No one has fatally overdosed on cannabis in 40,000 years of human interaction with this plant.

Crazy, right? While so many people are misusing opioids, scientists are learning more about how cannabinoids interact, and about the various effects they have on our bodies. ​When we have a sane drug policy, we will be able to fund clinical trials that could provide the evidence we need to make cannabis an everyday household item.

Cannabis can be an alternative to opioids.

Chronic pain is no picnic. But neither is opioid dependence. If over-the-counter painkillers aren’t giving you the pain relief you need, and you don’t want to risk becoming addicted to dangerous opioids or other prescription drugs, in many states there is an alternative: Cannabis is organic, safe and effective medicine. It is not physically addicting, and as an anti-inflammatory, it’s useful for pain management. Cannabis can be applied as a topical, directly to painful joints and muscles; ingested as an edible that gives relief for hours; or inhaled, as smoke or vapor, for immediate relief.

If you don’t want to get high, stick to CBD products, including strains of high-CBD flower that you can inhale for fast relief, without the intoxication that comes with THC.

Cannabis has other benefits.

As a versatile medicine, cannabis allows you to customize your own treatment. Maybe a massage with a CBD topical, plus a puff of your favorite cultivar, helps take your mind off the pain in your neck. Or you prefer an edible that will give you relief for hours. The important thing is, you’re in control, with a safe and effective organic medicine that enables you to avoid the pitfalls of opioid addiction. Ask your budtender or cannabis-consuming friends, and do some research online to find a cultivar that has a good reputation for pain management.

You can even grow your own cannabis, so you know it’s free of pesticides, fertilizers and solvents.