Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
Medical | By Mark Scott

Could Medical Pot Help Curb the Opioid Abuse Crisis?

Could Medical Pot Help Curb the Opioid Abuse Crisis?

Pot can relieve chronic pain in adults, so advocates for liberalizing marijuana laws have proposed it as a lower-risk alternative to opioids.

"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.

The National Safety Council has pegged the states which they consider the leaders in implementing policies to help combat the deadly opioid epidemic.

North Carolina's largest health insurer is clamping down on coverage of opioid prescriptions.

Legal dispensaries were also associated with an average of 361,000 fewer daily doses of morphine prescriptions each year, the study found.

The findings suggest that access to medical marijuana may have cut patients' need for opioids to manage their pain, the researchers said. "The potential for marijuana policies to reduce the use of addictive opioids deserves consideration, especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic". Two new studies in the debate suggest it may. Opioids are becoming the most popular drug of choice, creating alarming over-dose and death rates. Initial prescriptions for more than seven days of immediate-release opioids will be automatically rejected at the pharmacy.

In states without medical marijuana laws, the annual opioid prescription rate was about 670 for every 1,000 people enrolled in Medicaid, the study found.

In Ohio, only one of the six actions hasn't been met- implementing a data sharing database which would allow prescribers, law enforcement, and more to share information about crimes associated with opioid misuse and more. The latest studies suggest that such a painkiller already exists - it is called marijuana, and it is legal for medical use in 29 states and for recreational use in nine states plus D.C.

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

In the U.S., states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually than states where it is banned. It remains highly prevalent that the use of medicinal marijuana can benefit those who are addicted to different types of opioid-based drugs.

The two studies have some limitations, Dr. Kevin Hill of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Andrew Saxon of the University of Washington in Seattle wrote in an accompanying editorial. The findings in Medicaid and Medicare patients may not apply to other people.

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.

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