According to two separate studies published this week, states that have medical marijuana laws on the books have decreased rates of opiate abuse. The new research suggests that in states where it is allowed, people are turning to cannabis as a safer alternative to treat their pain, thus avoiding dangerous and addictive drugs like opiates.
These findings are just the latest in what is becoming a long line of preliminary research suggesting that cannabis could indeed be a huge factor in eliminating the opiate epidemic that grips the nation currently.
Opiate medications have an incredibly high rate of addiction and abuse. Many people start off with prescriptions for painkillers and end up on heroin and street drugs because they become hopelessly addicted.
The authors of these studies suggest that people who avoid using those drugs in the first place and choose cannabis instead are much less likely to end up as part of the epidemic, according to NPR.
W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia, said:
“We do know that cannabis is much less risky than opiates, as far as likelihood of dependency. And certainly there’s no mortality risk.”
JAMA Internal Medicine
Bradford, along with three other individuals including his scientist daughter, knew that the National Academy of Sciences said that there is good evidence that cannabis treats some types of pain, so they decided to do the math.
What they discovered was that in states where people can easily access medical marijuana, they are much less likely to get that prescription for an opiate, according to the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
According to the data, in states with legal medical cannabis, opioid prescriptions are down 14 percent.
By their estimation, cannabis dispensary programs reduced the total number of opiate prescriptions by a whopping 3.7 million daily doses. On top of that, in states that allow people to grow their own saw 1.8 million fewer pills dispensed each day.
Hefei Wen – University of Kentucky College of Public Health
The University of Kentucky College of Public Health was the location of the other study, and Hefei Wen was the lead author. It was published in the same journal, and the study reached the same conclusions.
Wen, along with Jason Hockenberry at Emory University used Medicaid data to study opiate prescriptions. The two men agree with the other study group, although they warn that marijuana alone cannot solve the crisis facing America.
SESSIONS AND THE FEDERAL WAR ON WEED
The statistics are just the latest in a long line of positive news concerning cannabis since it prohibition started to fall. We already knew that in states where cannabis is legal, overdose deaths have fallen up to 33 percent.
Sadly, none of this amazing news matters to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his renewed war on this harmless plant. Indeed, he and those like him are the very reasons that studies like this are rare. Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, currently no larger study can legally take place.
Unfortunately, that lack of research leaves scientists knowing they found a correlation but also knowing that they can’t directly prove that cannabis was the cause. Until prohibition at the federal level is lifted, that will continue to be the case.
These days, it’s just like the Republican party to ignore empirical evidence because they don’t like what it says.
Feature Image via Visual hunt.