Dr. Oz and Montel Williams on Whether Marijuana Can Treat Opioid Addiction

By Paul Fuhr 09/22/17

On the show, Williams revealed that a past addiction to opioids drives his medical marijuana advocacy.

Dr. Oz and Montel Williams
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Television

Former talk show host and medical marijuana advocate Montel Williams recently appeared on The Dr. Oz Show to discuss health, chronic pain, the opioid epidemic and medical marijuana.

The Emmy-winning host of The Montel Williams Show, who was diagnosed 17 years ago with multiple sclerosis, opened up to Dr. Oz about not only his condition, but his crusade to get medical marijuana legalized in every single state to combat opioids.

“If I concentrate on my pain, I can't even sit here,” Williams winces in front of Oz, his voice frail but committed. “Now, listen, for a fact, I had seven doctors that I chased to get every, single pill there was that you can think of 17 years ago.” He goes on to reveal that he knocked on every possible door, hoping to throw money at the MS problem. Pills apparently rained down—not all good, either.

Williams won’t even refer to OxyContin by its full name (“Oxy-you-know-what”), which is pretty telling—especially given how often the drug, alongside other opioids, gets thrown around as a wünderdrug against MS pain.

Video credit: ZoCo Productions, LLC.

“I, over a period of 18 months, did enough damage that right now, I have to go have a surgery to correct the damage that I did from the opioid abuse. Okay,” Williams continues. “So listen, I had a doctor who said to me, 'Montel, listen, I'm not gonna write you any more prescriptions. You need to figure this out. I know some people who have MS who, like you, say that this marijuana stuff works.'”

Williams remarks that he’s been involved in every state that’s passed legislation to allow patients and doctors to discuss marijuana as an option. Williams is adamant that the opioid crisis is nothing more than a cycle where one addictive substance is swapped out for another.

“Stop the stupid,” Williams pleads. “Ninety-one people a day die from a heroin addiction. There has never been one person in the history of the world who has died from cannabis. Never.”

Video credit: ZoCo Productions, LLC.

Dr. Oz then shifts gears a bit and turns his attention away from the gaunt-yet-resolute Williams and challenges the viewers of his show, calling out doctors and researchers alike. Oz urges them to join him in “petitioning the government to study marijuana as a solution for chronic pain,” citing not only the current opioid epidemic but the brain-melting cost associated with treating opioid addiction per year: $78 billion.

Video credit: ZoCo Productions, LLC.

“And right now, we're spending one-tenth of one percent of this total to support cannabis research,” Oz says. “And now, as the President says, that this is an opioid crisis and it's a federal emergency right? That's a good thing in a way because that means it's the right time to prove, 'cause it's an extreme moment that can use extreme measures, it's the right time to prove that marijuana can help with chronic pain.” Oz then asks viewers to visit his website to sign a petition in support of marijuana for chronic pain.

Dr. Oz has made headlines recently with his call-to-action regarding medical marijuana and its potential to replace opioids as a treatment toward chronic pain. “The real story is the hypocrisy around medical marijuana," Oz said on a recent episode of Fox & Friends. "People think it's a gateway drug to narcotics. It may be the exit drug to get us out of the narcotic epidemic."

His comments left the hosts scrambling for a response as he called out the DEA for labeling marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance—the exact same as with heroin and LSD. "We're not allowed to study it because it's a Schedule I drug, and I personally believe it could help," Oz said.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.