Legalizing medical marijuana could help curb the opioid epidemic

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W. David Bradford, an economist at the University of Georgia in Athens who's an author of the second study, said the results add to other findings that suggest to experts that marijuana is a viable alternative to opioids.

Two new studies suggest that legalizing medical marijuana in certain states led to a drop in opioid prescriptions, according to CNN.

A new study has come out showing the possible link between addicts coming off of opioids and marijuana use. In Prescription Nation, a digest analyzing how states are tackling the worst drug crisis in recorded U.S. 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. Previously published research has indicated that states with medical cannabis laws have shown up to a 25% reduction in opioid deaths and that states with medical cannabis dispensaries have shown reductions in opioid overdose deaths by as much as 40%.

"We do think there's good reason to be hopeful that cannabis might be one tool out of many we could use to address the opioid epidemic", Bradford said.

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This crisis, which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, costs the USA more than $500 billion a year, a number that does not compare to the amount allotted. "Papers like these two suggest that cannabis may play a role". Opioid prescriptions fell by 2.21 million daily doses per year, on average, in states that legalized medical marijuana - an 8.5-percent decrease - compared with opioid prescriptions in states that didn't legalize the drug. The researchers in the study were able to continue the research up until 2013, where they found that lower rates of opioid deaths completely corresponds to use of medical marijuana in individuals with issues of addiction.

At this point, 30 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing some form of marijuana use, including eight states that have legalized recreational use.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina says starting Sunday it's no longer covering first-time prescription of short-acting opioids for more than a seven-day supply.

"However, the economic burden of the opioid epidemic is unevenly distributed across the country, with many communities especially hard hit".

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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.

Louisiana approved medical marijuana to treat certain conditions such as chronic pain treatment in cancer patients, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy in 2016, though the state is still working through the permitting process for pharmacies to distribute the drug.

"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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