Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

Desiree Steele
April 4, 2018

The report has found specifically that legalizing medical marijuana is highly associated with lower levels of opioid related deaths, in states that have put forth legislation to make marijuana legal.

"Patients and physicians seem to be responding to the introduction of medical cannabis as if it were medicine - in many ways as they would with the introduction of a new FDA-approved medical treatment", said study coauthor W. David Bradford, a researcher at the University of Georgia in Athens.

A new study has come out showing the possible link between addicts coming off of opioids and marijuana use.

Legal dispensaries were also associated with an average of 361,000 fewer daily doses of morphine prescriptions each year, the study found. Two studies, published on April 2nd by the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal a net decrease in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws for Medicare and Medicaid populations.


This crisis, which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, costs the US more than $500 billion a year, a number that does not compare to the amount allotted.

Legalisation of marijuana may play a role in fighting the ongoing U.S. opioid crisis.

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".

"We do think there's good reason to be hopeful that cannabis might be one tool out of many we could use to address the opioid epidemic", Bradford said.


At this point, 30 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing some form of marijuana use, including eight states that have legalized recreational use. The second conclusion shows that the primary driver of the opioid crisis is not prescription drug use, but rather use from substances purchased on the black market.

In this Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, a woman holds the prescribed medical marijuana product used to treat her daughter's epilepsy after making a purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary in Butler, Pa. In Kentucky, prescriptions to patients who shop around for painkillers dropped by 54 percent in the year after their state database mandate took effect.

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.

Most people, including teenagers, with an opioid-use disorder start out with a legitimate prescription for the drugs from health care providers for pain management.


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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