Will legalizing marijuana lead to a decrease of fatalities due to the opioid epidemic? Two new studies in debate are saying yes. Seems like marijuana is fighting the opioid epidemic. Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers say that marijuana may help fight opioid addiction and fatal overdoses. Yet, a key factor contributing to the opioid crisis is excessive prescriptions. Both studies find evidence that legalizing marijuana leads to less opioid prescriptions.
Looking Closer At The Studies
In the first study, researchers looked at trends in opioid prescribing under Medicaid which cover low-income adults. As a result, they found that in the places that marijuana has been legalized (medicinally, recreationally and/or both) Medicaid opiate prescriptions dropped. And those who can use marijuana as treatment are associated with about a 6 per cent lower rate of opioid prescribing for pain. Also, states that allow recreational cannabis use also saw an approximate 6 per cent drop.
Another study by the University of Georgia came to similar conclusions. This study looked at those with disabilities or over 65 covered under Medicare. States with legal dispensaries filled about 14 per cent fewer opioids compared to other states. Also, States that allow people to grow their own cannabis saw 7 per cent fewer doses. Finally, both of these studies are the latest of a mass of research on the topic. However, the first study is the only one to have covered the link between opiate prescriptions and recreational marijuana use.
Rethinking How Doctors Prescribe For Pain
It is no secret anymore that marijuana is extremely effective at treating chronic pain. Yet, opioids are often prescribed to treat chronic pain instead. Most noteworthy is the lack of evidence to support how effective they actually are at treating those conditions. Opposite to opioids, marijuana is a lower risk alternative. There is a lower risk for addiction and no reports to date of overdose. Many doubt that an overdose of cannabis is even possible. W. David Bradford, one author of the second study said that this new evidence is “now hard to ignore”. He says federal regulation needs to change. Subsequently, Doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana as a pain treatment. There is now a large amount of research that shows that marijuana is fighting the opioid epidemic.
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