Vermont falls to 'lagging' in addressing opioid crisis

Vermont falls to 'lagging' in addressing opioid crisis

Two new studies suggest that legalizing medical marijuana in certain states led to a drop in opioid prescriptions, according to CNN. Compared to states where cannabis was banned, states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually, while states that permitted only home cultivation of marijuana had 1.8 million fewer doses. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, almost 80 percent of heroin addicts were hooked after using prescription drugs.

"I think at this point, with patients dying every day as a result of opioid use disorder, we need to consider all possible solutions to the crisis", said Dr. Kevin Hill, director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

A separate study of adults insured by Medicaid, the United States health program for the poor, found medical marijuana laws associated with an nearly 6% decline in opioid prescriptions.

He said these studies and others offer strong support for anecdotal evidence from patients who report they need fewer opioids for chronic pain when they are put on medical cannabis.

The studies are the latest in a long line of research showing that marijuana availability is associated with reductions in opiate use and misuse.

In a speech in New Hampshire last month outlining the administration's plan to deal with a nationwide opiate overdose crisis that claimed over 42,000 lives in 2016, President Donald Trump called on researchers to "come up with a painkiller that's not so addictive".

There is widespread agreement among doctors and public health experts that marijuana is effective at treating chronic pain.

"Of course, there may be diversion from medical cannabis sources to recreational purposes - our research can't really speak to that", Bradford said by email.

Instead, they find evidence that legalization may reduce the prescribing of opioids.

The article The Impact of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws on Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees can be accessed on JAMA's website here.

"Marijuana is one of the potential, non-opioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose", said Hefei Wen, co-author of the Medicaid study and a researcher at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington.

Results showed that laws that let people use marijuana to treat specific medical conditions were associated with about a 6 per cent lower rate of opioid prescribing for pain.

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.

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