Marijuana is Battling the Opioid Crisis

Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

Two new studies suggest that legalizing medical marijuana in certain states led to a drop in opioid prescriptions, according to CNN. The researchers in the study were able to continue the research up until 2013, where they found that lower rates of opioid deaths completely corresponds to use of medical marijuana in individuals with issues of addiction. Even if patients made a decision to switch from opioids to medical marijuana, the number was not high enough to reflect lowered opioid use throughout the data.

As the authors of one study summed it up, "These findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids".

This crisis, which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, costs the USA more than $500 billion a year, a number that does not compare to the amount allotted. While some deaths may be due to illegal narcotics like heroin, others are caused by opioid medications like oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone.

Governor Gina Raimondo describes the opioid crisis an epidemic, "In the past five years, we've lost more than 1,200 Rhode Islanders to overdose".

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"Marijuana liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic", Wen and Hockenberry concluded.

There is widespread agreement among doctors and public health experts that marijuana is effective at treating chronic pain. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose. Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

Researchers found that Medicare patients in states with marijuana dispensaries filled prescriptions for about 14 percent fewer daily doses of opioids than those in other states.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management.

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The National Safety Council reported that employers are taking the biggest toll in the crisis- losing eligible workers to addiction, reporting that "certain industries like construction and manufacturing, report increasing difficulties in filling open positions".

The two studies have some limitations, Dr. Kevin Hill of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Andrew Saxon of the University of Washington in Seattle wrote in an accompanying editorial.

We also need stronger background checks before patients can be prescribed risky drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are usually responsible for starting the downward spiral of addiction.

Response: Marijuana is one of the potential, non-opioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose.

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