Many states across the nation legalizing medical and recreational cannabis has raised many questions. What impact will legal marijuana have on local communities? Will legal marijuana cause more traffic accidents? Will legal marijuana lead to more drug use?
Researchers studying the impact of legal marijuana recently found a remarkable trend: There was a 24.8% decrease in opioid-related deaths in states with medical cannabis laws. The results of this 2014 study by Colorado State University and the University of Massachusetts have huge implications. Could weed dispensaries play a role in reducing the U.S. opioid death rate?
Researchers analyzed data for almost 20 years between 1999 and 2010. They estimated that approximately 10,000 lives were saved from doctors prescribing cannabis instead of opioids for pain.
If the research is true, this is a huge accomplishment that can be useful in the fight against the opioid crisis.
Medical Marijuana Usage Statistics
While the results of this report are promising, there is a need for additional medical marijuana statistics. Recent concerns about marijuana toxicity, the potential for addiction, increased marijuana use by children and the benefits and dangers of legalized marijuana are being researched and watched closely in states that allow for recreational and medical marijuana.
Traffic accidents, for example, have significantly increased in Colorado, a state where marijuana potency has skyrocketed. Driving while high is a national concern as well. A 2014 survey found that 13% of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for marijuana, an issue that states that legalized marijuana are still figuring out how to enforce.
With so many states recently adopting new laws that make marijuana legal, only time will tell whether or not use of marijuana will rise. However, based on current research, the National Academy of Sciences has stated, “There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.” Colorado was one of the earlier states to legalize marijuana, and a recent report by the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that the number of young people using marijuana did not significantly increase between 2005 and 2017.
The Effect on Policy
Learning more about the effects of medical marijuana — whether they are positive or negative — is essential for policymakers. If the findings that point to marijuana’s potential to curb opioid use are true, then medical marijuana policy in the United States could be shaped to help combat the opioid crisis.
At this point, the problem of opioid addiction and dependence is so significant that smart policies that take on a multi-prong approach are needed. Can prescribing marijuana to treat pain instead of opioids be the solution? Probably not alone, but trying other drugs and methods as part of a toolkit for treating patients is a good step in the right direction.
If opioid addiction is affecting you or someone you love, you are not alone. Treatment is available. Reach out to a representative at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake and take the first step to a new, healthier life.
Insurance Institute on Highway Safety. “Status Report: Legal Pot.” October 18, 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.
EMCDDA. “Cannabis Policy: Status and Developments.” Accessed August 30, 2019.
Bachhuber, Marcus, et al. “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999–2010.” JAMA Intern Med., 2014. Accessed August 30, 2019.