Medical marijuana could be a major factor in fighting the nationwide opioid epidemic.
According to a new study from the University of New Mexico, “Legal access to cannabis may reduce the use of multiple classes of dangerous prescription medications in certain patient populations”. Addiction to prescription painkillers is currently widespread across the United States, killing tens of thousands annually and burdening the health care system.
The study, written by psychology professor Jacob Vigil and economics associate professor Sarah See Stith, “Effects of Legal Access to Cannabis on Scheduled II-V Drug Prescriptions” was published in the latest issue of the Journal of American Medical Directors Association. Opioid overdose is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the United States.
As reported by the University of New Mexico Newsroom, the study “compared 83 chronic pain patients, who enrolled in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program during a five+ year period from April 2010 to October 2015, to 42 non-enrolled patients over a 24 month period (starting 6 months prior to enrollment for the MCP patients) using the Prescription Monitoring Program”. At the end of the study, 28 (34%) of the cannabis program participants had entirely stopped taking their prescribed painkillers.
New Mexico has some of the tougher drug possession laws for marijuana. Possession of less than an ounce is a misdemeanor, and cultivation of any amount is a felony. The medical marijuana program in NM, however, allows cultivation and currently has nearly 20 qualifying conditions and any primary physician can give a recommendation. Latest estimations by NORML.org indicate more than 42,000 patients are presently enrolled in NM’s Medical Cannabis Program.
“Our current opioid epidemic is the leading preventable form of death in the United States, killing more people than car accidents and gun violence,” said professor Vigil. “No one has ever died from smoking too much cannabis. Therefore, the relative safety and efficacy of using cannabis in comparison to that of the other scheduled medications should be taken by the health providers and legislators, and may very well to have been considered by the patients in our study.”
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