Is Marijuana the Key to Fewer Opioid Prescriptions?

The United States is experiencing the most opioid overdoses in history. Amidst the research performed to study this alarming issue, analysts have discovered the states that legalized marijuana have, in fact, seen a decline in opioid prescription use.

Has Legalizing Marijuana Helped Lower the Use of Opioid Painkillers?

Research teams confirmed that the number of opioid prescriptions are significantly lower in states that legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Further research indicated that the states with legal recreational use had an even greater reduction in opioid prescriptions.

Hefei Wen, assistant professor of health management at the University of Kentucky states, “We saw a 9% or 10% reduction (in opioid prescriptions) in Colorado and Oregon; and in Alaska and Washington, the magnitude was a little bit smaller but still significant.”

Is Opioid Use Serious Enough for all this Research?

The considerable studies aimed at reversing the trend stem from dire statistics like more than 500,000 opioid overdose related deaths since 2000. In 2016 alone, there were 42,000 overdose deaths directly related to the use of opioids. Forty-percent involved prescription opioids, while most resulted from heroin and fentanyl abuse.

Dr. Marcus Bachhuber studies health system and policy approaches to prescription drug misuse at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center. His study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, finds prescription painkiller overdose deaths 25 percent lower after a medical marijuana state law is implemented.

Could Marijuana be an Effective Replacement for Opioids?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as with opioids, marijuana is shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain. In addition to pain, it also treats multiple sclerosis, seizures, and other disorders. Marijuana as a safer alternative to opioid painkillers is the subject of ongoing further research.

States with medicinal marijuana have noticed a decline in opioid prescriptions, and the states with recreational laws saw a much more dramatic decline: about 14 percent rather than 7 percent. Does legalizing affect the amount of opioids prescribed for pain? According to facts, legalizing marijuana has definitely created a change in the pattern of opioid prescription use.


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