Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
Medical | By Josefina Yates

Legal marijuana tied to drop in opioid prescriptions

Legal marijuana tied to drop in opioid prescriptions

What's more, studying prescription data from states can only reveal a correlation between medical-marijuana laws and a reduction in opioid use; it can't show a cause-and-effect relationship, Hill said. Studies suggest marijuana use is rising fastest among older Americans-a group that's also most likely to have the type of pain conditions that respond best to marijuana, the researchers said.

Instead, they find evidence that legalization may reduce the prescribing of opioids.

Legal dispensaries were also associated with an average of 361,000 fewer daily doses of morphine prescriptions each year, the study found.

"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", said Hefei Wen, co-author of the Medicaid study and a researcher at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington.

"Marijuana liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic", Wen and Hockenberry concluded.

Opioid prescriptions tend to decrease in USA states that adopt medical marijuana laws or legalize recreational use of pot, two different research teams have concluded. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "An estimated 1 out of 5 patients with non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnoses are prescribed opioids in office-based settings". Overdose deaths rose 21.5 percent in 2016, a much sharper spike than the 11.4 percent increase seen the previous year. The latest studies suggest that such a painkiller already exists - it is called marijuana, and it is legal for medical use in 29 states and for recreational use in nine states plus D.C.

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Legalisation of marijuana may play a role in fighting the ongoing USA opioid crisis.

Opioids are a class of strong pain medications, including drugs such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen).

"However, the economic burden of the opioid epidemic is unevenly distributed across the country, with many communities especially hard hit".

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

In this Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, a woman holds the prescribed medical marijuana product used to treat her daughter's epilepsy after making a purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary in Butler, Pa. 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.

We also need stronger background checks before patients can be prescribed unsafe drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are usually responsible for starting the downward spiral of addiction. Hill wrote an editorial that accompanied the two articles.

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