Studies examine relationship between legal cannabis use, opioid prescriptions

Apr 04, 2018, 02:02
Studies examine relationship between legal cannabis use, opioid prescriptions

The National Safety Council has pegged the states which they consider the leaders in implementing policies to help combat the deadly opioid epidemic.

Two studies published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine find that the availability of medical and recreational marijuana is linked to lower rates of opiate prescribing.

Researchers say this indicates patients might be using marijuana to manage their pain instead of opioids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 90 Americans a day die from opioid overdose. Medical pot was linked to reductions in hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl prescriptions, but not to prescriptions for oxycodone, Bradford said. Opioid prescriptions fell by 2.21 million daily doses per year, on average, in states that legalized medical marijuana - an 8.5-percent decrease - compared with opioid prescriptions in states that didn't legalize the drug.

Wen found that medical and adult-use cannabis laws were associated with lower opioid prescribing rates.

"The potential of these marijuana (legalisation) policies to reduce the use and consequences of addictive opioids deserves consideration especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic", Wen said by email.

W. David Bradford, an economist at the University of Georgia in Athens who's an author of the second study, said the results add to other findings that suggest to experts that marijuana is a viable alternative to opioids. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose.

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

In the USA, states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually than states where it is banned.

New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation's opioid crisis. In Prescription Nation, a digest analyzing how states are tackling the worst drug crisis in recorded USA history, the Council assigned its highest mark of "Improving" to Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, DC, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.

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. Hill wrote an editorial that accompanied the two articles.

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

For one thing, they don't reveal whether individual patients actually reduced or avoided using opioids because of the increased access to marijuana.

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