The Huffington Post published an article looking into a study suggesting marijuana may alleviate the opioid crisis in America.
Nearly 40 people per day die from an overdose to prescribed opiates. Can Cannabis change this statistic?
Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data on traffic fatalities from 1999-2013 in 18 U.S. states. They found most states with medical marijuana laws saw a reduction in fatal crashes where drivers tested positive for opioids including prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet.
It is expected the adverse effects of opioid use will decrease over time in states which have legalized medical marijuana as more and more people will use marijuana for treating chronic pain, said lead author of the study, June Kim, a student busy with a doctoral thesis on this topic.
A selection of our products
Perhaps younger people are more willing to replace opioids with marijuana
The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health, and is the first to look into the relation between states with medical marijuana laws, and opioid use. The author said medical marijuana laws are associated with reduction in opioid use among 21-40 year old fatally injured drivers.
The minimum requirements for medical marijuana use are that patients should be 21 and older, and might have influenced the strong trend in the data, since most medical marijuana patients are younger than 45. The authors expect to see similar reductions in opioid use amongst older people as medical marijuana use becomes more acceptable by the older generations.
Professor Li said the study is about the possibility of substituting opioids with medical marijuana. The toxicological testing for fatally injured drivers supports the substitution hypothesis in young adults but not in older people.
U.S. faces painkiller epidemic
The U.S. is facing an epidemic of painkiller use as opioid prescription and sales have quadrupled, and are described by the CDC as the fuel that fed the crisis.
In 2014, a study found that states with medical marijuana programs had less deaths caused by overdose by opioids. A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabis can be an effective alternative pain treatment. In July this year, research showed a drop in prescription painkiller use in states with marijuana laws, with reduced Medicare costs pointing towards substitution with medical cannabis.
There are new guidelines for opioid prescription in an effort to discourage doctors to prescribe highly addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin to patients with chronic pain.
Tides are turning for marijuana
At state level, 25 U.S. states have legalized medical use of marijuana, and four more plus the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational use. So tides are turning for marijuana, but as long as federal law keeps it a schedule 1 substance with no recognized medical use, not much has changed for patients.
Cannabis for opioid addiction
As more states legalize marijuana in a wider sense, even for recreational use, more studies will be done, and this will confirm whether Cannabis for opioid addiction has had a significant impact.