The opioid crisis has come to the forefront of America’s consciousness in recent years. Chances are readers of this column have firsthand knowledge of a friend or family member that have been negatively effected by opioids.

OxyContin came on the market in 1996 after FDA approval; interestingly, it was marketed as non-addictive in nature at the time. That turned out to be false, as it became a gateway drug for a less expensive and even more addictive drug: heroin. Statistics show that close to 80 percent of heroin users say their abuse started with prescription opioids.

Later, with the increased manufacturing of the opioid called fentanyl, a drug over 50 times more potent than morphine, deaths began spiking around 2013. As a result, an important weapon in the arsenal for legitimate pain management is quickly disappearing as doctors are less willing to prescribe it and pharmacies don’t want to dispense it.

Anyone who has had to deal with end-of-life care or recovery from major surgery knows how effective OxyContin (pills pictured) is and its value in treating pain.

Enter the subject of this week’s column, Terri Haskins.

She is a nurse practitioner living in Geneva who specializes in the management of pain and providing multiple options to patients, including medical marijuana.

Haskins, 49, spent 10 years in school earning LPN, RN, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. She has been a NP for the past 15 years.

She works for the Boev Clinic in Canandaigua, which specializes incomprehensive neurosurgical care. There are plans for a Boev Clinic in Geneva soon.

While managing patients’ medications, Haskins likes to think she is offering some out-of-the-box thinking for alternative options too.

When it comes to medical marijuana, she was the first in our newspaper’s four-county coverage area to take coursework and receive certification to determine who is eligible for it. The number now certified has grown to five other medical professionals.

It is important to clarify that New York state has yet to legally approve the sale of cannabis in the plant or flower form. Nor has it made it legal for recreational marijuana — yet — although it is in the state’s legislative pipeline.

What is available, to those who are approved, is marijuana in the form of capsules, oils and vape cartridges (pictured). No edibles … yet.

For those wondering about similar products that are available at any of the many vape shops, the products sold there are hemp based and lack the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, ingredients often associated with marijuana’s euphoric effect. Both hemp and marijuana are versions of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant.

For cannabis to be legally considered hemp, it must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC per dry weight. The level of THC in hemp is 33 times less than the least potent marijuana strains, so it’s impossible for hemp to get a user “high.”

Cannabidiol “CBD” hemp oil products are legal in all 50 states and fill a role for those who can’t/haven’t qualified for medical marijuana.

If someone meets with Haskins and is approved for medical marijuana, the only places where it is dispensed nearby are in Syracuse and Rochester. She can’t certify patients that are on probation or parole. For those who do get approved, Haskins is able to monitor their purchasing activity online.

As of last week, 103,365 people are eligible to purchase medical marijuana in New York.

Among her toolbox of pain relief options, Haskins notes that patients can’t overdose on medical marijuana. The brain receptors react in a different way in the body than a narcotic.

In addition, for people who have insurance coverage issues, medical marijuana is relatively inexpensive in terms of out-of-pocket costs.

While Haskins has many options for pain, I have concentrated on the medical marijuana side of things because not enough people, including myself, are properly educated on the subject. Haskins is on the forefront of what may become a growing industry ... pun intended.

I suffer from Crohn’s and likely would fit the criteria to get approved. I am not quite ready for it yet, although about twice a year I do smoke pot at Grateful Dead (Dead & Co.) concerts. Not enough, though, to see how it may directly affect my Crohn’s.

If any readers are not finding the proper relief from back issues, chronic knee pain or anything else, then maybe Haskins is someone who should be on your radar screen.

She welcomes anyone to call her at (585) 398-2420 to set up a time for a consultation. It is possible that one can get approved, and have a temporary card in hand, on day one to go to a dispensary.

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