New and promising scientific studies are showing the numerous benefits of medical and recreational cannabis legalization. Recently, five new studies on the effects of marijuana on opioid use added to the growing body of evidence that suggests that marijuana could play a significant role in ending the opioid crisis. Here’s a brief rundown on the latest in marijuana research.
Recreational Cannabis Legalization Reduces Opioid Use
A study performed by researchers from the University of California at San Diego, Weill Cornell Medical College, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found a link between recreational marijuana legalization and reduced opioid use. Researchers analyzed medical prescriptions from Medicaid patients from 2010 to 2017. They found no significant uptick in opioid use after recreational marijuana legalization.
Cannabis access laws in 2015, however, were linked to a 32% decrease of opioid prescriptions, a 30% drop in doses of opioids, and a 31% decrease in the sale of Schedule III opioids. While only nine states and DC have full cannabis legislation, cannabis use has reduced opioid dependence in these states.
Cannabis Access Laws Reduce Opioid Dependence
A research paper by the University of Alabama Legal Studies combed through 1.3 billion opioid prescriptions between 2011 and 2017 and found a 6.9% reduction in opioid prescriptions in states with complete marijuana legalization. A 6.1% reduction in opioid prescriptions was found in medical marijuana-only states. According to the study, the “laws also reduce the total days’ supply of opioids prescribed, the total number of patients receiving opioids, and the probability a provider prescribes any opioids net of any offsetting effects.”
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths
A study published by researchers at Claremont McKenna College, the University of Georgia, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock analyzed mortality rates of non-Hispanic white males aged 15 to 54 years from 2009 to 2015 in counties with medical marijuana dispensaries. The study found a 6% to 8% reduction of opioid-related deaths and over 10% reduction in heroin-related deaths.
Extrapolating this data implies that “for every 100,000 non-Hispanic white men, 10 fewer opioid-induced fatalities would have occurred between 2009 and 2015 if dispensaries were present and operating in every county” within each state with medical marijuana laws.
Cannabis Reduces Opioid Use In Advanced Arthritis Patients
The journal of Orthopedic Proceedings published a study that looked through toxicology tests given to more than 520 patients with severe arthritis between 2012 and 2017. These patients needed reconstructive surgery and used opioids to manage their symptoms. Cannabis use increased from 9% to 15% after surgery and opioid use decreased from 24% to 17%.
Cannabis Use Increases While Opioid Use Decreases
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health released a report that found that in 2016 11.8 million patients abused opioids. In 2017 that number decreased to 11.4 million. In 2016, 24 million people over the age of 12 used cannabis. In 2017 26 million people over the age of 12 consumed marijuana. 60% of opioid misuse was for pain management.
A rising trend in research on the effects of cannabis and opioid use indicates that marijuana could function as an alternative or supplement to opioids. As more states continue to legalize recreational marijuana, research suggests that opioid dependence and opioid-related deaths will inevitably decrease. Cannabis access laws have proven to work in helping end the opioid epidemic.