White House launches a new website to solicit opioid addiction stories

Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

One study examines state implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws with opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees, while a second study examines prescribing patterns for opioids in Medicare Part D and the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

The study of Medicaid patients examined the association between opioid prescribing rates and state marijuana laws implemented from 2011 to 2016. Even if patients made a decision to switch from opioids to medical marijuana, the number was not high enough to reflect lowered opioid use throughout the data.

"These findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids", the authors concluded. "We hope states adopt the recommended actions laid out here so we can eliminate preventable opioid deaths and stop an everyday killer". Medical pot was linked to reductions in hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl prescriptions, but not to prescriptions for oxycodone, Bradford said. Opioids are becoming the most popular drug of choice, creating alarming over-dose and death rates. This decrease equates to about a 14% reduction in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws. But some research suggests marijuana may encourage opioid use, and so might make the epidemic worse. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose.

Since 1992, the number of prescription opioids went from around 112 million to 236 million in 2016.

In the U.S., states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually than states where it is banned.

"I think at this point, with patients dying every day as a result of opioid use disorder, we need to consider all possible solutions to the crisis", said Dr. Kevin Hill, director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

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

He said these studies and others offer strong support for anecdotal evidence from patients who report they need fewer opioids for chronic pain when they are put on medical cannabis.

The two studies were published online April 2 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

At the same time, Hill says medical marijuana should not be given a lead role in treating chronic pain. It remains highly prevalent that the use of medicinal marijuana can benefit those who are addicted to different types of opioid-based drugs.

Future studies should take a closer look at the link by performing randomized clinical trials to see the effects of taking marijuana for pain or following patients to see if marijuana helped them avoid opioids altogether or only lower their use.

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