States with Cannabis Laws Correlates with Lower Opioid Use

According to two studies, medical marijuana has shown to slow down the opioid abuse epidemic. The research indicates that some individuals elect to use cannabis in order to treat their pain, and by doing so, avoid taking and getting addicted to more dangerous substances.

Opioid abuse has become a national issue. After beginning treatment using prescription medication, many people end up abusing opioid drugs such as oxycodone and heroin.

The authors--W. David Bradford (University of Georgia) and Hefei Wen (University of Kentucky College of Public Health)--of the studies argue that people who avoid the initial prescription are less likely to wind up as a victim to the opioid epidemic. Aside from its medicinal benefits, cannabis is known to be less risky than opiates with regard dependency and mortality risk.

Bradford and his team determined that people who can get easy access to medical marijuana are less likely to get prescription opioids. According to the data from Medicare (which covers people more than 65 years of age), the researchers discovered a 14 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in states which have initiated dispensaries for medical marijuana.

They estimate that these dispensary programs reduced the number of opioid prescriptions by 3.7 million daily. States which permit cannabis cultivation in the home for medical use noticed an estimated 1.8 million fewer pills dispensed per day. To put that in perspective, Medicare recipients received an average of 23 million daily doses of opioids between 2010 and 2015.

Since opioid use throughout the country was rising during the study period, instead of an actual decline in opioid use in medical marijuana states, Bradford’s estimate of reduced uses demonstrates a slowing of the increase. Although the study found a correlation and expanding access to medical marijuana could help ease the opioid epidemic, it doesn’t prove that cannabis use alone led to a reduction in the growth of opioid use.

In another study, Wen used Medicaid data (which generally covers low-income individuals). His findings suggest that laws which allow both medical use and recreational use of cannabis for adults can potentially reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, who are highly susceptible to chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose. Again, Wen echoed Bradford’s statements by saying liberalization of marijuana alone won’t solve the opioid crisis.

Both authors agree that medical marijuana use does not come without risks. Like any drug, it has the potential to be misused. Unfortunately, further study on the matter can be difficult to perform. The federal government still regards cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, putting tight controls on research.

For more information about the benefits of medicinal marijuana, contact New Jersey Alternative Medicine today.

For more information about the benefits of medicinal marijuana, contact New Jersey Alternative Medicine today.

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