Could legalized cannabis help with the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States? New research shows that states where there is permitted access to medical cannabis, opioid use and abuse is mitigated.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported that patients who were enrolled in the cannabis access program and “known to be taking opiate painkillers” routinely lessened their intake of opioids. The published report concluded that 63 percent “were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after six months.”
Likewise, several other states have yielded similar results.
Patients enrolled in Michigan’s cannabis access program receiving marijuana treatment had a “64 percent decrease in opioid use, decreased number and side effects of medications and an improved quality of life,” The Hill reported.
Various northeastern sates found that 77 percent of patients enrolled in cannabis therapy “acknowledged having reduced their use of opioids” during the treatment, also reported by The Hill.
In a study conducted in New Mexico, which compared opioid users to non-users, it concluded that the opioid users “were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent).”
And in Illinois, an assessment done in 2017 confirmed that patients who were enrolled in the cannabis state-run program used marijuana in place of other medications, most commonly opioids.
Two clinical trials in Israel supported Illinois’ assessment of medical cannabis patients, concluding that “Cannabis can decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids.”
According to a study published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2011, researches proposed that these medical marijuana components help alleviate pain in the same way in which opioids are prescribed for pain relief:
- Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
The study also concluded that “the rates of fatal opioid overdoses were significantly lower in states that had legalized medical marijuana,” Drugabuse.com reported. These states saw 1,700 fewer deaths from opioids in 2010.
“We found there was about a 25 percent lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law,” Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, lead study author, said.
About 60 percent of the nation’s fatal opioid overdoses occur among patients who have legitimate prescriptions for their medications.
While 23 states and Washington D.C. currently have medical marijuana laws in place, these studies in a whole have concluded that where medical marijuana is legal there is a significant decrease in opioid use and less chance of overdose.
As research and studies continue to prove true, Opiate abuse research believe that medical marijuana might be the key to the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
“The striking implication is that medical marijuana laws, when implemented, may represent a promising approach for stemming runaway rates of nonintentional opioid-analgesic-related deaths,” Dr. Mark S. Brown and Marie J. Hayes, opiate abuse researchers and authors of a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, said.