Vermont falls to 'lagging' in addressing opioid crisis

04 April, 2018, 02:02 | Author: Lynne Higgins
  • Jake Harper  Side Effects Public Media

"We do think there's good reason to be hopeful that cannabis might be one tool out of many we could use to address the opioid epidemic", Bradford said.

The report has found specifically that legalizing medical marijuana is highly associated with lower levels of opioid related deaths, in states that have put forth legislation to make marijuana legal.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. "However, our findings show that the mechanism for this was loosely regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, and that the association between these laws and opioid mortality has declined over time as state laws have more tightly regulated medical dispensaries and the opioid crisis shifted from prescription opioids to heroin and fentanyl", Pacula said.

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

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"Our study provides some of the first empirical evidence that the implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws was associated with lower opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees". "We hope states adopt the recommended actions laid out here so we can eliminate preventable opioid deaths and stop an everyday killer". The latest studies suggest that such a painkiller already exists - it is called marijuana, and it is legal for medical use in 29 states and for recreational use in nine states plus D.C. Previously published research has indicated that states with medical cannabis laws have shown up to a 25% reduction in opioid deaths and that states with medical cannabis dispensaries have shown reductions in opioid overdose deaths by as much as 40%. In February, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills reported 418 drug overdose deaths in the state in 2017, an 11 percent rise over 2016 - when deaths surged 40 percent over 2015. Patients in states that only allowed them to grow pot at home showed about 7 per cent fewer doses. Studies suggest marijuana use is rising fastest among older Americans-a group that's also most likely to have the type of pain conditions that respond best to marijuana, the researchers said.

We also need stronger background checks before patients can be prescribed risky drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are usually responsible for starting the downward spiral of addiction.

The two studies have some limitations, Dr. Kevin Hill of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Andrew Saxon of the University of Washington in Seattle wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Limiting initial opioid prescription lowers the risk of addiction and chances of unused drugs hitting the street. The findings in Medicaid and Medicare patients may not apply to other people. As people take more, their bodies become used to it, requiring more.

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