Researcher Examines Relationship Between Legal Cannabis and Opioid Prescribing

04 April, 2018, 02:06 | Author: Otis Hoffman
  • Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

"Opioid abuse is an epidemic in the United States, claiming more than 42,000 lives in 2016 alone (CDC 2017c)". They found that the rates of opioid prescribing in states that had legalized medical marijuana dropped by 5.9 percent annually, on average.

New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation's opioid crisis.

Governor Gina Raimondo describes the opioid crisis an epidemic, "In the past five years, we've lost more than 1,200 Rhode Islanders to overdose".

The other study, led by researcher Hefei Wen, from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, found a decrease in opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid in states that legalized either medicinal or recreational pot.

Results showed that laws that let people use marijuana to treat specific medical conditions were associated with about a 6 per cent lower rate of opioid prescribing for pain. Medical pot was linked to reductions in hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl prescriptions, but not to prescriptions for oxycodone, Bradford said.

The Trump administration's decision to increase spending to address the opioid crisis is a step in the right direction, but this epidemic needs more attention.

The California opioid database, called CURES, has been around for decades, but it recently got a reboot to make it faster and easier to use.

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The National Safety Council reported that employers are taking the biggest toll in the crisis- losing eligible workers to addiction, reporting that "certain industries like construction and manufacturing, report increasing difficulties in filling open positions".

In the second study, Ashley Bradford, David Bradford and Amanda Abraham of the University of Georgia found that at the state level, medical marijuana laws were associated with an 8.5 percent reduction in the number of daily opioid doses filled under Medicare Part D, relative to states without medical marijuana laws.

"There is a growing body of scientific literature suggesting that legal access to marijuana can reduce the use of opioids as well as opioid-related overdose deaths", Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance told CNN on Monday (April 2).

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. Patients who were once trying to relieve pain are now addicted to the drugs.

Most people, including teenagers, with an opioid-use disorder start out with a legitimate prescription for the drugs from health care providers for pain management.

Limiting initial opioid prescription lowers the risk of addiction and chances of unused drugs hitting the street.



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