New Studies Show Cannabis Could Combat The Opioid Crisis

New Studies Show Cannabis Could Combat The Opioid Crisis

America has a real problem with opioids. Two new studies show that medical cannabis could be a real solution.

Regardless of what you think of President Trump, when he called the nation’s opioid crisis a “national emergency,” he was completely right.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board points out, the misuse of and addiction to opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — claimed more than 42,000 lives in 2016 — the same number of opioid-related deaths predicted for this year. That number works out to more than 250,000 deaths over the past decade or 115 deaths each day.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams is urging “health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose,” to learn how to use the highly effective anti-overdose drug naloxone and keep it “within reach.”

It’s Science

But while the use of naxalone, which is carried by many first responders, can certainly save lives, new research indicates that medical marijuana can reduce greatly patients’ need for opiates altogether.

Two papers published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed more than five years of Medicare Part D and Medicaid prescription data and found that after states legalized medical cannabis, both the number of opioid prescriptions and daily opioids dropped dramatically. As Scientific American notes, this new research mirrors a 2014 study that showed that states that had legalized medical marijuana saw nearly 25 percent fewer deaths due to opioid overdoses.

RelatedHow Much Does Science Know About Cannabis and the Brain?

According to the Union-Tribune, there are two key takeaways from the new studies.

First, the new studies appear to back up another JAMA report from November that showed that emergency room patients in New York City reported roughly the same amount of pain relief whether they received over-the-counter medications like Advil or Tylenol, prescription drugs like Percocet or Vicodin, or Tylenol No. 3. The study showed that not only are addictive drugs readily available in emergency room settings, but that they are prescribed too often, which is playing a significant role in the current opioid epidemic.

The study also showed that hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing away with opioids in favor of non-addictive medical marijuana. While it’s unclear whether patients or doctors are leading the shift, a recent survey of 3,000 medical cannabis patients found that almost all of them say they could significantly reduce their dependence on opioids by adding cannabis to their treatment regimens, with a vast majority saying they would prefer to use cannabis over the prescription pills they currently take.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that the Justice Department seeks a “rational” marijuana policy.

Wanting to save lives is pretty rational.