Cannabis could help combat the opioid crisis going on now in the US
This month was a big one for cannabis legalization. That’s because, on November 8, eight out of nine states passed new marijuana laws. California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all said yes to legalizing recreational use. And voters in Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana approved new medical marijuana laws. But this month’s cannabis legalization victories could also have some big-time public health implications. That’s because a number of studies have found that cannabis could combat the opioid crisis in the United States.
Researchers have been investigating the link between cannabis and opioids for at least a few years now. Back in 2014, a group of researchers found that states with medical marijuana programs had lower opioid-related mortality rates.
“States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws,” they wrote.
Those findings were similar to studies from 2015. In July 2015, the National Bureau of Economic Research published its findings.
It said that “states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”
That study ultimately concluded, “that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.”
In November 2015, RAND researchers found that “states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths.”
And a study published in April of this year reached similar conclusions. According to Castlight Health, there are currently almost 2 million Americans abusing prescription opioids.
And 16,000 people die every year from opioid overdoses. But those numbers all drop in states that have legalized medical cannabis.
And finally, researchers from the University of Georgia published their findings this past summer. They found that medical marijuana could be used to replace a number of prescription drugs such as opioids. And in states that implemented new medical cannabis programs, the use of prescription drugs “fell significantly.”
The Final Hit
There’s been a lot of research lately to see if cannabis can help fight the opioid epidemic. And so far, the evidence seems pretty consistent.
In states where medical marijuana is legal, people use fewer prescription drugs. And there are lower rates of opioid addiction, abuse, and overdose deaths.
But that’s not all. There are some other ways cannabis can help the opioid crisis. For example, in September, researchers at Columbia found that marijuana helps lower the number of deadly car crashes involving opioids.
The movement to legalize cannabis looks like it’s picking up momentum. And that energy could provide a solution to the ongoing opioid epidemic.