Legal Cannabis Programs Reduce Opioid Prescriptions

by Joy Montgomery April 5, 2018, 1:31
Legal Cannabis Programs Reduce Opioid Prescriptions

Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid also dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws compared with states without such laws, according to the studies.

Results showed that laws that let people use marijuana to treat specific medical conditions were associated with about a 6 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing for pain.

Changing attitudes toward marijuana for medical use could lead to a deviation from the prescription pain medications fueling the country's opioid epidemic. "And certainly there's no mortality risk" from the drug itself. The results indicated that opioid prescriptions declined dramatically if medical marijuana dispensaries were accessible to people.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Pending final approval from the State Pharmacy Board, he could soon open the first medical marijuana dispensary in the Greater New Orleans area.

Although medical marijuana shouldn't be considered the primary treatment for chronic pain, it could be something that people turn to as a backup if they are battling opioid addiction, according to researchers.

A daily pain management dose of cannabis likely cost about $6 a year ago - and that number should be lower by now, Bradford said.

To put that in perspective, from 2010 to 2015 Medicare recipients received an average of 23 million daily doses of opioids, the researchers say. The amended bill also removed criminal penalties for possessing cannabis that can't be smoked for patients with certain debilitating health condition who had a doctor's order.

A 2017 assessment of medical cannabis patients in IL revealed that participants in the state-run program frequently reported using marijuana "as an alternative to other medications-most commonly opioids, but also anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatories, and over-the-counter analgesics".

"Medicare and Medicaid publishes this data, and we're free to use it, and anyone who's interested can download the data", Bradford said. Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 73 million low-income individuals in the USA, according to the program's website. Despite the idea of "street drugs" being the driving force in the opioid crisis, over-prescribing is huge factor.

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The new research comes as the United States remains entangled in the worst opioid epidemic the world has ever seen.

Established dispensaries accounted for 89 of the applications, and the rest came from "economic empowerment" applicants, who can show they benefit "communities that have been disproportionately harmed by marijuana law enforcement".

"All drugs of abuse operate using some shared pathways".

"I think it would be important for medical cannabis, something that is studied further". Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, authored a study that found marijuana users were six times more likely than nonusers to abuse opioids.

"It's specifically about reducing the usage part, which kind of implies cravings, so one of the items in the opiate study is essentially to head off withdrawal symptoms", Brennan said, adding that study subjects are given two pills containing 25mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil a week and then questioned for the effects.

They called for states and the federal government to pay for more studies to clarify the effect of marijuana use on opioid use, saying such research is needed for science to guide policy-making.

Cannabis not a gateway drug, and it never was.

"That does make this a hard area to study, and that's unfortunate because we have a large problem with the opioid epidemic", Olfson says.


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