One of the nation’s leading medical journals suggests that cannabis can be a helpful tool to combat America’s opioid addiction problem.
Since 1999, American overdose deaths involving opioids have quadrupled. Medical experts estimate that our nation’s abuse of opioids cost over $72 billion in health costs each year.
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):
With the current nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, dependence, and fatalities, clinicians are being asked by federal agencies and professional societies to control their prescribing of narcotic medications for pain. Federal guidelines emphasize tapering, discontinuing, and limiting initiation of these drugs except in provision of end-of-life care. Reducing reliance on opioids, however, is a massive task. According to one estimate, more than 650 000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed each day in the United States. Unless the nation develops an increased tolerance to chronic pain, reduction in opioid prescribing leaves a vacuum that will be filled with other therapies.
According to the JAMA article, “observational studies have found that state legalization of cannabis is associated with a decrease in opioid addiction and opioid-related overdose deaths. This premise merits careful attention.”
The article was co-written by Dr. Esther K. Choo, Sarah W. Feldstein Ewing and Travis I. Lovejoy.
The authors’ findings are not the first time medical researchers have come to this conclusion. A 2012 study from Canada concluded:
There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of medical cannabis as an adjunct to or substitute for prescription opiates in the treatment of chronic pain. … Despite a lack of regulatory oversight by federal governments in North America, community-based medical cannabis dispensaries have proven successful at supplying patients with a safe source of cannabis within an environment conducive to healing, and may be reducing the problematic use of pharmaceutical opiates and other potentially harmful substances in their communities.
A recent Time article, quotes Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, concurring with JAMA‘s findings:
“If we could use cannabis, which is less addictive and harmful than opioids, to increase the effectiveness of pain treatment, I think it can make a difference during this epidemic of opioid abuse. We are hampered by the fact that it is still difficult to get funding for studies on cannabis as a therapeutic.”
Related Story: Marijuana Is An ‘Exit Drug’ From Opioids And Addiction
Marijuana initiatives are on nine statewide ballots this November.