Legalized marijuana lowers opioid abuse, study shows

Source: WCH6-Portland by: ELLE OUSFAR and NBC NEWS , WCSH 8:27 AM. EDT March 28, 2017


PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — 91 Americans die each day from opioid abuse. Is there hope for the Opioid epidemic?  After legalizing recreational Marijuana in January, Mainers may have a pot to stand on.
A professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland was fascinated by the study because it shows a link between access to weed and lowered opioid hospitalizations.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity,” Dr. Esther Choo, who was not involved in the study, said in an email. “Could the liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution?
NBC News reports, Legalized Marijuana Could Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic, the study analyzed hospital records from 1997 through 2014 for 27 states, the data shows a decline in opioid use or deaths in states that allow medical marijuana.
On average, hospitalizations dropped by 23 percent for opioid painkiller dependence, and opioid overdoses dropped by 13 percent in states where medicinal cannabis was permitted.
Fears that legalizing marijuana would lead to a surge in weed-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, NBC News reports.
“Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers,” said study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego.
“This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalizing marijuana to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary,” Shi wrote. 
However, she said, “There is still much we need to understand the mechanisms through which marijuana policy may affect opioid use and harms. But we don’t know who it works best for, at what dosage, for how long.”
As the opioid epidemic continues to rise, many are still skeptical about legalizing pot.  U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in on the topic:  “I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana,” he told law enforcement officers in Virginia, “so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another.”

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