Could medical marijuana be a solution to the opioid epidemic?

Medical marijuana users in Illinois report that their use of the substance to relieve pain has lessened or stopped their use of other prescription medications such as opioids, as reported by The Daily Mail. The small-scale study from DePaul University and Rush University suggests it could be a solution to the opioid crisis.

The researchers studied 30 participants, all of whom had experienced pain, seizures, or inflammation. All of the participants, with an average age of 45, had used medical marijuana, instead of the painkillers prescribed by their doctors. The participants were convinced that medical cannabis was more effective, as its effects acted faster and lasted longer than the pharmaceutical drugs they were taking previously. Medical marijuana is currently illegal in the state.

“One of the most compelling things to come out of this is that people are taking control of their own health, and most providers would agree that’s a good thing,” lead author of the study Douglas Bruce said.

The research is believed to be one of the first peer-reviewed, published research on marijuana as a cure for pain in Illinois.

The study supports previous studies on medical marijuana possibly solving the opioid epidemic.

One such research, made in 2014, analyzed whether the legalization of medical marijuana in some states had affected the rate of opioid overdose deaths. Results revealed that states that allowed medical cannabis from 1999 to 2010 had a decline in opioid overdose deaths every year by an average of about 25 percent than in states where cannabis was still illegal.

“I think medical cannabis could fall into the category of alternatives for treating chronic pain so that people don’t use opioids or use a lower dose of opioids than they otherwise would,” Marcus Bachhuber, study’s lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the Montefiore Medical Center.

Another study examined hospital records from 1997 to 2014 in 27 states. Results revealed that hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse declined on an average 23 percent in states where medical marijuana was legal. Moreover, hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses fell on an average 13 percent.

“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,” Yuyan Shi, a public heath professor at the University of California, San Diego Shi told Reuters in an e-mail.

On opioids and medical marijuana use in the United States

The United States is currently in an opioid epidemic and is struggling to find alternative painkillers to stop the crisis from intensifying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids — such as heroin and fentanyl — have caused over 500,000 deaths from 2000 to 2015, with 91 Americans dying daily from an opioid overdose. (Related: Opioid epidemic reaches whole new crisis level as Big Pharma drugs out America for profit.)

At the same time, more research about the medical benefits of marijuana have been published, especially now that the drug is legally used for medical purposes in around 29 states in the country.

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