Go Back

The Opioid Crisis: Israel Does What America Cannot With Cannabis

Veterans groups like the American Legion support cannabis as a potential treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and opioid use disorder as well. To their surprise, in late June, the U.S. Senate voted to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans.

While America takes baby steps towards exploring cannabis’ potential to help those in need when it comes to opioid abuse, Israel recently took a big entrepreneurial leap forward to make the opioid crisis a thing of the past.

Developing A Marijuana Inhaler

Israeli entrepreneur Perry Davidson is founder and CEO of the Tel Aviv-based company known as Syge, a startup that developed a marijuana inhaler. The device delivers a selective dose of pharmaceutical grade cannabis. Doctors can remotely control the inhaler to ensure that their patients receive a reliable—and regulated—dose.

Two years ago, Syge made a deal with Israel’s preeminent big pharma company Teva to market the inhaler. Davidson says the inhaler simply entered the Israeli market—no eyebrows raised, and not a protest sign to be found anywhere.

Israel has its terse political landscape just like any country, but one thing that unites Israelis is the use of medical cannabis. In fact, even orthodox Jewish rabbis endorse its use. Government officials decriminalized cannabis nationwide; patients don’t fear repercussions, the federal government sponsors research and companies are free of red tape to invent.

Davidson commented on the stark differences in the U.S., where a large part of American society still views cannabis with a very negative stigma. He believes that his inhaler will go a long way into changing that mindset.

A shrewd businessman, he is searching for a sizeable piece of the pie in a market expected to be worth $33 billion in less than a decade. Davidson knows that 37 percent of that market will address pain management. Surprisingly, though, he is not focused on the Israeli market, but instead, has his sights set on America, and on using his inhaler to replace the opioid prescriptions that are wreaking havoc on veterans and the citizenry at large.

Opioid Use In America

The opioid crisis in America is considered to be at epic proportions, classified by some as a national public emergency. The latest data available from 2016 shows that 63,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, the large majority of them involving heroin, codeine, fentanyl, and Oxycontin.

Sadly, more than two million Americans have become dependent on these prescription painkillers. The imbalance, when compared with Israel, is that America has a virtually non-existent cannabis research program to look at cannabis as a viable alternative seriously.

Davidson says he is ready for the boom; as it stands now, there are many patients calling for medication, and big pharma doesn’t have the answers.

U.S. technology is largely regarded around the globe as the best technology in the world, yet with politicians stuck in a quagmire regarding cannabis legalization at a federal level, that technological standing does little good.

Israel travels a different path and is, in many ways a night-and-day difference to the U.S. It is called “The Startup Nation,” a nickname earned because of its robust focus on the technology sector. The government heavily backs Israeli tech with government funding, and as such, Israel leads the world in pioneering many cutting-edge technologies, including cannabis tech.

Syge is not the only company in this entrepreneurial space. Joining Syge are companies like MedAware, CannRX, and Steep Hill, all trying to do their unique part to reduce opioid abuse.

Founder of industry group iCAN, Saul Kaye, says this: “Israelis have had to adapt. We have a scarcity of water, so we built water systems. Since Israel is mainly desert, we’ve adapted crop growth for desert conditions. Israelis say that developing an opioid-combatting drug is no different. Kaye explains that strides are being made daily to show how cannabis is effective on pain and other issues.

The Opioid Crisis Hits Home

Some Americans, particularly veterans, already know that cannabis will help them with PTSD and other ailments. The story of Afghanistan veteran Matt Kahl is a textbook case representative of how so many Americans have fallen into the opioid trap. Kahl suffered a serious spinal injury on a military patrol mission. Very soon, the military prescribed 60 pills a day to Kahl to fight his pain, and naturally, he became addicted to opioids—for years. During that time, his liver failed.

Kahl describes the amount of medication he received as “staggering.” Soon, he was barely functioning; not only was he suffering from his spinal injury, but he also had acute PTSD after years of battle. One day, a friend persuaded Kahl to smoke marijuana. Kahl said the effect was subtle and life-changing at the same time. “I started daydreaming, which I hadn’t done in years. It was so beautiful.”

Shortly after that, Kahl moved to Colorado where marijuana was legalized for recreational use. He is now a strong veterans’ advocate for medical marijuana use for PTSD and other ailments. Kahl welcomes new technology like Syge has to offer. He says the sooner the stereotypes about marijuana use end, the better off veterans—and everyone else—will be.

Add comment