Thursday, March 30, 2017

Legal cannabis cuts opioid abuse, study suggests

Legalized Marijuana Could Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, Study Finds - NBC News - Reuters:

March 27, 2017 - "In states that legalized medical marijuana, U.S. hospitals failed to see a predicted influx of pot smokers, but in an unexpected twist, they treated far fewer opioid users, a new study shows.

"Hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse dropped on average 23 percent in states after marijuana was permitted for medicinal purposes, the analysis found. Hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average.

"At the same time, fears that legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an uptick in cannabis-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, according to the report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"'Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers,' said study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego....

"[T]he opioid epidemic - sparked by a quadrupling since 1999 in sales of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin - kills 91 Americans a day.

"Shi analyzed hospitalization records from 1997 through 2014 for 27 states, nine of which implemented medical marijuana policies. Her study was the fifth to show declines in opioid use or deaths in states that allow medical cannabis.

"In a 2014 study, Dr. Marcus Bachhuber found deaths from opioid overdoses fell by 25 percent in states that legalized medical marijuana....

"Nonetheless, a 1970 federal law puts cannabis in the same category as heroin, Schedule 1 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, and finds it has no medicinal value. Consequently, doctors can only recommend, not prescribe, marijuana, and physicians who work for the federal government cannot even discuss the weed.

"Federal prohibition also has led to severe limitations on marijuana research.

"Bachhuber lamented the dearth of research on the best ways to use marijuana as medicine.

"We have information that it works based on the National Academies' report," he said. "But we don't know who it works best for, at what dosage, for how long.""

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