A new study analyzed a database of 1.5 billion people with opioid prescriptions between 2011 and 2018. The publishing date was on Dec. 14 2019 in Journal of Health Economics. The study concluded that, there were reductions of 11.8 percent and 4.2 percent of opioid prescription.
Another study, which examined 2011 to 2016 Medicaid data had similar conclusion. „In this population-based, cross-sectional study using the all-capture Medicaid prescription data for 2011 to 2016, medical marijuana laws and adult-use marijuana laws were associated with lower opioid prescribing rates (5.88% and 6.38% lower, respectively).” In addition, the study from December examines all type of prescriptions not only the Medicaid. The conclusion, that Legal cannabis resulted in opioid prescription decrease, is similar to previous studies.
How can cannabis help with the opioid crisis?
Since pain began to be a common affection, doctors are treating it more aggressively. As a result, the number of opioid prescriptions quadrupled in the firstfifteen years of the new millennium. „Opioids are used to treat both chronic and acute pain, though their efficacy in treating chronic, non-cancer pain is limited (Boudreauet al., 2009; Chou et al., 2015, 2009).”. In addition to them not being efficient, they have severe side effects and sometimes destabilize patients even more.
As mentioned on the Harvard page, the most common use of medicinal marijuana is for pain control! Also there are several studies out there showing the benefits of CBD and THC for pain management. Because of those reasons, cannabis becomes one of the solutions for reducing the abuse of opioids.
There is common ground
Due to legalization in several states, more research could be conducted. More and more of the benefits of cannabis are now surfacing in the academical world. Even though research advances, it is difficult to introduce cannabis in nowadays medicine. Doctors also could have a difficult time in prescribing anything else than what the FDA approves. Because of political interest, it is difficut to get a cannabis based medicine to be FDA approved. This seems like ignoring several previous studies for personal gain. This makes it difficult even for the doctorss who advocate cannabis use to actually prescribe it. Doctors prescribe opioids which can have many side effects and can more addictive than medicinal cannabis.
The study from the Journal of Health Economics suggests that Recreational and Medicinal access to cannabis are reducing opioid prescriptions. The results also fall in line with previous research on smaller populations. The authors also suggest that Recreational access has a more influential effect on the reduction than Medicinal access. This can be because of the wider access that recreational use gives and also not having to fulfill medicinal requirements. Legal cannabis resulted in opioid prescription decrease due to patients being able to manage their pain with cannabis.
Intersection with other pain medication
The article also mentions that prescribing NSAIDs, such as Advil or Aleve, decreases also by the passing of the recreational and medicinal cannabis laws. Those non-steroidal anti inflamatory drugs are less dangerous than opioids but can still be a difficult to use for people with kidney problems or ulcers. The reason why the laws decrease the consumption of NSAIDs and opioids is because patients get access to use cannabis products to treat pain. Furthermore, the patient are even more inclined towards using cannabis which is a plant, in comparison to the synthetic alternatives.
While cannabis proves more and more efficient in pain management, it is slowly replacing other alternatives that produce unwanted side effects. The risks of using cannabis are there, but they still are much lighter than those of opioids. By conducting more research it will be possible to know how to use this plant and minimize it’s side effects, while maximizing the therapeutic effects. It was too long that this plant was in the shadow, and it is time for humanity to stop hiding it and start using it to it’s entire potential!
As in many other situations, I will say that cannabis is not the fix to everything. BUT, it has many beneficial effects on humans and if we do not explore them we will never be able to understand the power of this plant entirely. Legal cannabis can help decrease opioid prescription and abuse. Here is a quote from the end of the article:
„While the results here do not suggest that cannabis access laws are the only tool to address prescription opioid use, they do suggest that cannabis access laws could play a meaningful role in addressing the opioid epidemic”