The creeping opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency by the Trump administration in October this year. The announcement highlighted what many had watched spiral out of control over a decade. A nation-wide addiction epidemic to prescription and illicit drugs.
As authorities and policymakers scramble for answers to the crisis, a potential remedy may lay in plain sight: medical marijuana.
A recent study reveals that patients with access to medical marijuana significantly reduced their use of prescription drugs, with some giving up prescription drugs altogether.
A Crisis Spinning Out of Control
According to statistics, drug overdose deaths have tripled and in many places since 1999.
America’s dangerous addiction to prescription drugs is no secret.
For many patients struggling with this addiction, there’s a familiar yet tragic story. Opioids, prescribed drugs, and treatments become so powerful and habit-forming that they end up consuming the patient. These patients then enter a vicious cycle of dependency.
This dependency also leads to people making their own, more dangerous synthetic drugs.
According to reports by the Center for Disease Control,
The U.S. opioid epidemic is continuing. Drug overdose deaths nearly tripled during 1999–2014. In 2014, among 47,055 drug overdose deaths, 61% involved an opioid. From 2014 to 2015, the death rate from synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased by 72.2%, and heroin death rates increased by 20.6%.
Rates of death involving heroin and synthetic opioids other than methadone increased across all demographic groups. The climbing toll of opioids and other dangerous prescription drugs have wrecked entire communities. Proposed solutions to the crisis by government authorities and policymakers are likely too little, too late.
However, there may be a silver lining here. The crisis has shed light on alternatives to prescription drugs.
The crisis has shed light on alternatives to prescription drugs.
Studies continue to show that medical marijuana has led to patients living happier and healthier lives, free from costly and addictive prescription drugs.
Medical marijuana to the rescue?
One of the most recent studies on the effects of medical marijuana was revealed that patients with access to medical marijuana use fewer opioids and other dangerous prescriptions.
The study involved two groups of patients suffering from chronic pain in New Mexico. Of these groups, 83 patients had access to a medical marijuana program, and 42 without access to medical marijuana.
After a 24-month period, the 83 patients who had access to medical marijuana ended up reducing their use of prescription drugs. 38 of the patients stopping the use of prescriptions altogether.
The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, reads:
By the 10-month mark of being enrolled in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program (MCP), patients with chronic back pain, arthritis, chronic headaches, fibromyalgia, and other chronic musculoskeletal conditions significantly reduced their prescription drug use. Over a third of the patients enrolled in the MCP stopped using prescription drugs altogether, compared to only two percent of the non-enrolled participants.
Patients with access to medical marijuana used fewer opioids, with some quitting altogether. Now let that sink in.
Not only did most of the patients cut down on their prescription drugs, but also a third of them ended up quitting altogether.
The results of this study show that it isn’t unreasonable to look to medical marijuana as part of the solution to the opioids crisis. Access to medical marijuana could be a life-saver for those dependent on opioids.
If access to medical marijuana can help over a third of 125 patients in New Mexico, then one could believe that it has potential in helping a third of all opioid dependents nationwide, too.
Hopefully, studies like this one will continue to show that medical marijuana is a solution to America’s real drug problem: opioids and prescription drugs.
What about you? Do you think that access to medical marijuana can help fight the opioid crisis? Let us know in the comments below.