Marijuana is Battling the Opioid Crisis

Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

In the second study, Ashley Bradford, David Bradford and Amanda Abraham of the University of Georgia found that at the state level, medical marijuana laws were associated with an 8.5 percent reduction in the number of daily opioid doses filled under Medicare Part D, relative to states without medical marijuana laws. 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.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina says starting Sunday it's no longer covering first-time prescription of short-acting opioids for more than a seven-day supply.

Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid dropped by 5.8 percent in states with medical marijuana laws, according to the studies.

"These findings suggest that cannabis may play a role in fighting the opioid crisis by reducing some patients' need for opioids", said Dr Kevin Hill, co-author of an accompanying editorial and director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

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

The studies are the latest in a long line of research showing that marijuana availability is associated with reductions in opiate use and misuse.

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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.

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. Overdose deaths rose 21.5 percent in 2016, a much sharper spike than the 11.4 percent increase seen the previous year.

The California opioid database, called CURES, has been around for decades, but it recently got a reboot to make it faster and easier to use.

In one of the studies, Wen and her colleague Jason M. Hockenberry, associate professor of health policy at Emory Universtiy in Atlanta, analyzed rates of opioids prescriptions during 2011 and 2016 for Medicaid enrollees - a population that has a a relative high risk for chronic pain and opioid addiction, Wen said.

Most people, including teenagers, with an opioid-use disorder start out with a legitimate prescription for the drugs from health care providers for pain management.

The findings suggest that access to medical marijuana may have cut patients' need for opioids to manage their pain, the researchers said. Although many individuals believe that the opioid crisis is mainly focused on the overprescription of these drugs, it is clear that there is a large group of individuals who are using black market opioids, that could benefit from marijuana use instead.

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