The Opioid Epidemic in America

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In the USA, states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually than states where it is banned. Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

One study focused on older adults with Medicare drug benefits. "The latest numbers show us that there were over 64,000 opioid deaths past year". 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.

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

New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation's opioid crisis.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The second conclusion shows that the primary driver of the opioid crisis is not prescription drug use, but rather use from substances purchased on the black market.

In the Medicare study, conducted from 2010 to 2015, researchers didn't find cannabis legalization associated with a meaningful reduction in prescriptions for fentanyl or oxycodone.

Additionally, researchers found a 14.5 percent reduction in any opiate use in states operating legal marijuana dispensaries.

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The National Safety Council reported that employers are taking the biggest toll in the crisis- losing eligible workers to addiction, reporting that "certain industries like construction and manufacturing, report increasing difficulties in filling open positions".

Studies have found medical pot is effective in treating chronic pain, Bradford said.

"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.

Our study provides some of the first empirical evidence that the implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws between 2011 and 2016 was associated with lower opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees. "However, our findings show that the mechanism for this was loosely regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, and that the association between these laws and opioid mortality has declined over time as state laws have more tightly regulated medical dispensaries and the opioid crisis shifted from prescription opioids to heroin and fentanyl", Pacula said.

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.

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.