Our nation continues to be in the grip of a massive opioid crisis. According to national statistics, at least 130 people died each day in 2017 and 2018 from opioid-related overdoses, with no end in sight. How can we stop this tragedy?
For years, medical marijuana supporters have argued that legalizing the non-euphoric form of cannabis would mitigate the opioid crisis because this form of marijuana is said to help with pain, and opioids are painkillers.
Today, with 34 states allowing medical marijuana use, is the nation seeing an easing of the opioid crisis? A study published in JAMA Network Open shows opioid misuse remains high, despite the increasing availability of medical marijuana as an alternative.
Researchers at Columbia University analyzed data on prescription opioid users from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. They looked at data from 2004 to 2014, a time when a number of states legalized medical marijuana.
The researchers compared numbers of people in each state misusing prescription opioids before and after the state legalized medical marijuana. There was no substantial difference.
There are many possible explanations for this. Perhaps opioids are just too addictive. It could be that people are more comfortable with a prescription for an approved medication than going to a medical marijuana dispensary. It also could be that there has not been enough time for the full effects of medical marijuana use to be felt.
But the early research is sobering. As America struggles for a solution to the opioid crisis, is appears medical marijuana might not be the magic bullet many had hoped.