Friday, 22 June, 2018

Legal marijuana tied to drop in opioid prescriptions

Legal marijuana tied to drop in opioid prescriptions Legal marijuana tied to drop in opioid prescriptions
Becky Salazar | 04 April, 2018, 02:06

As the authors of one study summed it up, "These findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids".

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 90 Americans a day die from opioid overdose.

The National Safety Council is releasing the report at the National Rx Drug and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, in front of the Council's Prescribed to Death Memorial to the victims of the opioid crisis.

The new studies don't directly assess the effect of legalizing marijuana on opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

The other study, led by researcher Hefei Wen, from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, found a decrease in opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid in states that legalized either medicinal or recreational pot.

"Patients and physicians seem to be responding to the introduction of medical cannabis as if it were medicine - in many ways as they would with the introduction of a new FDA-approved medical treatment", said study coauthor W. David Bradford, a researcher at the University of Georgia in Athens. They compared opioid prescribing patterns between states with medical or recreational pot and those that have taken a hard line against weed.

Since 1992, the number of prescription opioids went from around 112 million to 236 million in 2016.

But states with medical pot dispensaries filled 3.7 million fewer daily doses, and states with home cultivation filled 1.8 million fewer doses, they said. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management.

"And now, with these two papers, plus a handful of previous studies, we've got pretty compelling evidence that shows that we need to really to think about cannabis as a potential way to curb the opioid crisis", said Hill, who co-authored an editorial that was published alongside the two studies in the same journal. In Prescription Nation, a digest analyzing how states are tackling the worst drug crisis in recorded USA history, the Council assigned its highest mark of "Improving" to Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, DC, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.

At the same time, Hill says medical marijuana should not be given a lead role in treating chronic pain.

We also need stronger background checks before patients can be prescribed risky drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are usually responsible for starting the downward spiral of addiction.

"Marijuana is one of the potential alternative drugs that can provide relief from pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose", Wen and Hockenberry write.

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