States with legal marijuana see fewer opioid prescriptions

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Governor Gina Raimondo describes the opioid crisis an epidemic, "In the past five years, we've lost more than 1,200 Rhode Islanders to overdose".

Researchers say this indicates patients might be using marijuana to manage their pain instead of opioids.

Researchers found that Medicare patients in states with marijuana dispensaries filled prescriptions for about 14 percent fewer daily doses of opioids than those in other states. One study examines state implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws with opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees, while a second study examines prescribing patterns for opioids in Medicare Part D and the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

Opioid prescriptions tend to decrease in US states that adopt medical marijuana laws or legalize recreational use of pot, two different research teams have concluded.

After comprehensive evaluations of data and prevention strategies, the National Safety Council identified the following six key actions that could have immediate and sustained impact addressing the opioid epidemic. "Papers like these two suggest that cannabis may play a role". "But if a patient has tried to treat pain using multiple modalities without success, a trial of medical cannabis may make sense".

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Can legalizing marijuana fight the problem of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses? What's more, states that widened access further, by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, saw a 6.4-percent annual decrease, on average. "However, our findings show that the mechanism for this was loosely regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, and that the association between these laws and opioid mortality has declined over time as state laws have more tightly regulated medical dispensaries and the opioid crisis shifted from prescription opioids to heroin and fentanyl", Pacula said.

The study noted that opioid-related deaths decreased by more than 6 percent over two years and researchers are hoping to see if the trend is replicated in states such as Washington and OR that have also legalized marijuana.

"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. Hill wrote an editorial that accompanied the two articles.

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.

Limiting initial opioid prescription lowers the risk of addiction and chances of unused drugs hitting the street.

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