Elise Hance: US still not doing enough to address opioid crisis

Elise Hance: US still not doing enough to address opioid crisis

Rosalie Pacula, co-author of the study and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research center stated recently that:our findings are consistent with previous studies showing an association between the legalization of medical marijuana and lower deaths from overdoses of opioids. Compared to states where cannabis was banned, states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually, while states that permitted only home cultivation of marijuana had 1.8 million fewer doses.

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. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management. Medical pot was linked to reductions in hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl prescriptions, but not to prescriptions for oxycodone, Bradford said.

"I think it's hard to deny that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests a role for cannabis in treating chronic pain, but it's not the level where it would be a first-line or even second-line treatment", 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. In Prescription Nation, a digest analyzing how states are tackling the worst drug crisis in recorded USA history, the Council assigned its highest mark of "Improving" to Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, DC, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.

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"Of course, there may be diversion from medical cannabis sources to recreational purposes - our research can't really speak to that", Bradford said by email.

When states implemented medical marijuana laws, however, the annual opioid prescription rate declined by nearly 6%, or approximately 39 fewer prescriptions for every 1,000 people enrolled in Medicaid each year.

The article The Impact of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws on Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees can be accessed on JAMA's website here.

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A new study has come out showing the possible link between addicts coming off of opioids and marijuana use.

"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.

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. Also, it's unclear from the studies exactly how much marijuana use was for medical versus recreational purposes or how much people might have relied on other non-opioid painkillers.

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