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Opioid Abuse Down In States With Medical Cannabis Program

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Written by Corre Addam

A new study, published on April 1st, 2017 by Drug and Alcohol Dependence, revealed some fascinating insights into the current opioid epidemic, and how states with legal cannabis are countering this.

The study ,entitled “Medical marijuana policies and hospitalizations related to marijuana and opioid pain reliever,” is backed by numerous reports, claiming that “States in America with medical marijuana programs are experiencing substantially lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses.”

While critics of medical cannabis are often the very people who promote opioids and other dangerous patented chemicals, the new study is compelling in that it demonstrates a significant difference in states where cannabis is legal for medical purposes. The study showed that in such states hospitalization for opioids was 23 percent less than in states without that provision.

As such, the study also showed that on average opioid overdoses were 13 percent lower in states with medical cannabis provisions. As Yuyah Shi, public health professor at the University of California and study author, told NBC News, “Medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers. This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalizing marijuana to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary.”

No one is claiming that medical cannabis will solve the opioid addiction epidemic in America, but this study, as well as numerous other studies, certainly suggest that cannabis can help with this issue.

Back in February of this year, studies from the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria suggested that patients suffering from chronic pain and mental health conditions will choose medical cannabis over their addictive prescription drugs when doctors give them a choice. That finding is extremely significant as doctors these days are so pen happy, they reel out prescriptions daily.

Patients questioned in the study, represented by 63 percent of the participants, said they chose cannabis over opioids if given a choice, and that they were better able to manage their symptoms with cannabis.

Professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, Dr Esther Choo, also spoke to NBC, “It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity. Could increased liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution? It seems plausible,” she said.

Taking 2015 as an example, that year a record 33,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

That statistic is enough to make even the most stubborn of doctors realize that there is an opioid epidemic afoot, and it needs dealing with one way or another.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego looked at hospitalization records from 1997 to 2014 in 27 states, nine of which legalized medical cannabis within that timeframe. They found that hospitalization rates of people suffering from painkiller abuse and addiction dropped on average 23 percent in states which had a medical cannabis program.

There are older studies too which reach similar conclusions. Take for example a study from 2014, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, noting a 25 percent decrease in opioid overdose deaths in states with legal medical cannabis.

The road is long, and the workload is plenty. However, will numerous studies as compelling as these, how long will it take for medical professionals to wake up to the fact the medical cannabis is a far safer and less deadly option for thousands of painkiller addicts?

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About the author

Corre Addam

Addam spends the lion's share of his day fixated on his computer screen. When he isn't in front of his computer, you'll most likely find him editing or researching his next fascinating article on his smartphone or tablet. When he manages to pull himself away from technology, you'll find him chilling hard somewhere, probably under a tree with an ice-cold Iced-tea, pondering life...