New studies are shedding light on how marijuana legalization could help offset the opioid epidemic. Instead of offsetting the number of deaths and number of people addicted, the studies suggest that legalizing marijuana could drive down the number of opioid prescriptions.
Laws on marijuana would have to be loosened so that it could have a bigger influence.
Marijuana To Fight Opioids
One of the studies investigated at the links between prescriptions for opioids covered by Medicare Part D and the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The second study dealt with the implementation of state medical and recreational marijuana laws compared to opioid prescription rates covered by Medicaid.
The first studied analyzed at how people covered Medicare were being prescribed opioids nationwide. It spanned the years between 2010 and 2015. Researchers compared states that had medical marijuana laws with those that didn't have these laws in place.
Medicare patients in states with medical marijuana had prescriptions with 14 percent fewer daily doses of opioids than people in states without medical marijuana. Patients in states that allowed them to grow marijuana at home also showed a dip with 7 percent fewer daily doses.
During the timeframe of this study, 14 states and the District of Columbia had medical marijuana laws at the beginning of the study. Nine more states passed laws that allowed for medical marijuana.
The other study reviewed the opioid prescribing rates for people covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016. Prescriptions were different compared to states that had medical marijuana laws and those without them.
Those in states that allowed them to use marijuana to treat pain had a 6 percent lower rate of prescribing opioids for pain. This leads to around 39 fewer prescriptions per 1,000 people using Medicaid.
Marijuana For Pain
A report released in January 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine showed that the most common reason for people to ask for medical marijuana is to treat chronic pain.
One of the conclusions in the report is that cannabis or cannabinoids found in marijuana can be an effective treatment for chronic pain. This is due to the natural cannabinoid receptors that are found in the body.
The problem is that pain is a subjective thing and can be different for different people. This makes it difficult to be able to measure pain accurately.