The study of Medicaid patients examined the association between opioid prescribing rates and state marijuana laws implemented from 2011 to 2016.
"Marijuana is one of the potential, non-opioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose", Wen said. But one study found that opioids dispensed through Medicare's prescription drug plan decreased significantly if people had access to medical pot dispensaries or were allowed to grow marijuana for their own use. "We hope states adopt the recommended actions laid out here so we can eliminate preventable opioid deaths and stop an everyday killer". According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, almost 80 percent of heroin addicts were hooked after using prescription drugs. The study has revealed that medical marijuana can lead to lower levels of opioid deaths, which has been identified in studies many times before.
In the first study, Hefei Wen of the University of Kentucky and Jason Hockenberry of Emory University found that the passage of medical and recreational marijuana laws were followed by reductions in Medicaid opiate prescription rates of 5.88 percent and 6.38 percent, respectively. The potential of these marijuana liberalization policies to reduce the use and consequences of addictive opioids deserves consideration especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
There is widespread agreement among doctors and public health experts that marijuana is effective at treating chronic pain. Imagine if the $270 million that pharmaceutical companies spent lobbying in 2017 went toward efforts to end the opioid crisis. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose. Opioid death rates are not lower in states that do not have protection for the use of marijuana, showing a clear link between the two.
The second study found a similar effect among people covered by Medicaid.
Each day, 90 Americans die from opioid overdoses, Hill notes in JAMA Internal Medicine, where both studies were published.
Legalisation of marijuana may play a role in fighting the ongoing USA opioid crisis. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management.
Louisiana approved medical marijuana to treat certain conditions such as chronic pain treatment in cancer patients, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy in 2016, though the state is still working through the permitting process for pharmacies to distribute the drug.
The two studies have some limitations, Dr. Kevin Hill of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Andrew Saxon of the University of Washington in Seattle wrote in an accompanying editorial.