U.S. experts have found a solid reason for legalising medical marijuana, saying it can help Americans who are struggling with opioid addiction and possibly reduce opioid-related mortality.
According to a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, prescriptions filled for opioids decrease by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state adopted a medical cannabis law.
“This means that allowing the use of cannabis for medical purposes may encourage lower prescription opioid use and reduce the harm in the opioid crisis,’’ the study said.
It noted that the finding was “particularly strong” in states that permit dispensaries.
The study analysed daily doses of opioids from 2010 to 2015 under Medicare Part D, the optional prescription drug benefit plan that covers over 42 million Americans.
Opioid prescribing in the U.S. has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, as physicians became more willing to use opioid medications to treat chronic and acute pain.
“Opioid-related mortality has accelerated coincidentally, from 14,910 deaths in 2005 to 33,091 in 2015.
“Between 2000 to 2015, opioid-related mortality almost increased by a striking 320 per cent.’’
The study further strengthens arguments in favour of considering medical applications of cannabis as a policy tool to be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioid,’’ the study concluded.
About 30 U.S. states have legalised medical marijuana use, and a couple of states have already legalised recreational marijuana use.
Some states, however, still believe it is a gateway drug toward other harder illegal drugs such as heroin.