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Can Legalizing Cannabis Cure the Opioid Crisis?

On April 24, 2018

Can Legalizing Cannabis Cure the Opioid Crisis?

A scientific study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that cannabis legalization can curb opioid use. The findings purport that medical and recreational cannabis laws “have the potential to lower opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose” it continues, “liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic.” The study looked at Medicaid prescription data from 2011-2016 and found that states that had legalized cannabis either for medicinal or adult use had lower opioid prescription rates than states that had not.

Overprescribing of opioids for pain management is considered a driving force behind the opioid epidemic in America. The study found that in states where cannabis use is legal for medicinal purposes, opioid prescriptions went down 5.88%; in states with recreational use legalized, prescriptions dropped 6.38%.

This is a significant discovery, as it offers adult consumers of cannabis a legal method of obtaining pain relief medication without incurring the addiction risks that occur with opioid prescriptions.

The difference in the decline of prescription rates is attributed to the less restrictive nature of obtaining cannabis in adult consumption states. Medicinal-use states have a list of approved diseases and ailments that may be treated with marijuana. A patient seeking treatment may find their reason unapproved for medicinal cannabis, but could still be prescribed opioids from a medical practitioner.

While the study finds there is a correlation between cannabis legalization and a decrease in opioid prescribing, it cautions that cannabis “liberalization alone cannot solve the opioid epidemic … liberalization is but one potential aspect of a comprehensive package to tackle the epidemic.”

In conclusion, while there is seemingly no single cure for the opioid crisis in America, cannabis legalization has been shown to lower prescription rates of opioids –a promising start to tackling the epidemic.

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