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The Role of Cannabis Legalization in the Opioid Crisis

Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found states with medical cannabis laws greatly reduce reliance on prescription opiates.  In both studies, after enacting medical cannabis laws, states saw opiate prescriptions from Medicare Part D recipients drop by 2.21 million daily doses and 3.74 million daily doses each year.  This is realized as a 5-6% reduction in opiate prescriptions for every year a state has active medical cannabis laws.

Although the study doesn’t say outright that cannabis was directly responsible for the reduction and substituted in the place of opiate prescriptions, the correlation and evidence is undeniable.  Coupled with the fact that research has shown “that cannabinoid and opioid receptor systems mediate common signaling pathways central to clinical issues of tolerance, dependence, and addiction. These concepts support anecdotal evidence from patients who describe a decreased need for opioids to treat chronic pain after initiation of medical cannabis pharmacotherapy.”

Ultimately, these studies found that states with medical cannabis laws averaged overdoses at a rate 24.8% lower than states without comparable medical cannabis laws.

For more information, see the full article and publications in JAMA here.

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