Opioid abuse rates are significantly lower in states where medical cannabis is legal, according to a new study.
The report published by Castlight Health looked at data from the medical and pharmaceutical industries gathered from 2011-2015.
After combining all those stats and analyzing the numbers, the report attempted to figure out just how bad the nation’s opioid abuse rates are becoming.
Opioids are a class of powerful painkillers that include things like oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. These drugs are known to be highly addictive.
They can also lead to overdoses and in some cases, to addictions to other drugs like heroin. Despite this, they are some of the most frequently prescribed medicines in the nation.
To point out how common and how addictive these painkillers are here are some key findings from the opioid abuse rates study:
- Sales of opioid painkillers in the U.S. quadrupled during the years 1999-2010
- In 2012, doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids
- There are almost 2 million Americans currently abusing prescription opioids
- 16,000 people die every year from overdosing on prescription opioids.
For the people who wrote the report, these numbers add up to paint a troubling picture.
“The prescription opioid crisis is getting worse, not better,” the report said.
“The personal toll that opioid abuse takes on individuals, their friends, and their families is alarming.”
But there is one bright spot in the report. The researchers discovered that states, where medical cannabis is legal, have lower opioid abuse rates.
In places where medical marijuana is not allowed 5.4% of people with opioid prescriptions are abusing the drugs. But in locations where medical marijuana is allowed that number drops to 2.8%.
These findings are directly in line with the conclusions coming out of a 2015 study. This earlier report published by The National Bureau of Economic Research.
According to the researchers who wrote this one:
“States permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”
“Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.”
As people have started looking for ways to address the U.S.’s opioid addiction problems, many have looked to cannabis as a possible solution.
But so far the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I illegal substance.
Drugs in that category are considered to have no health benefits. They’re also considered to be the most dangerous of all drugs.
Critics of the U.S.’s anti-cannabis laws point to studies like these as evidence that the plant should be rescheduled and made more widely available.