Can Cannabis solve the opioid crisis? Short answer, to us, is it CAN be a part of the solution to the crisis.
Marijuana is hailed for its high capability to cure plenty of untreatable diseases and illnesses such as cancer. With the opioid epidemic on the rise, is it possible for medical marijuana to also cure this problem?
To answer this, let’s dive into the article as we compare the prescribing rate of opioid 1 year before and after medical marijuana is legalized.
Medical Marijuana as A Painkiller
Marijuana contains many Cannabinoids including CBD or Cannabidiol and THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol. But contrary to the latter, topical CBD, particularly CBD oil, manages and reduces pain, inflammation, discomfort, and a variety of other health conditions.
Medical Marijuana: A Potential Opioid Crisis Solution
So how exactly is medical marijuana a potential solution to the opioid crisis?
Here’s where things get really interesting…
We’ve selected 19 states where medical marijuana is legal then compared the opioid prescribing rate 1 year before and after medical marijuana was legalized in the state. Here is what we found:
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Out of the 19 states, 15 have shown a fall of opioid prescribing rate 1 year after legalization of medical marijuana, and only 4 have increased in usage, namely: New Jersey, New Mexico, Michigan, and Arizona.
Interestingly, the state with the highest fall of opioid prescribing rate among the 19 states was Ohio, from an average opioid prescribing rate of 82.7 down to 63.5, totaling 19.2 decreased prescribing rate after marijuana legalization.
The state with the second-highest fall of opioid prescribing rate was Pennsylvania, from an average opioid prescribing rate of 75.5 down to 57.7, a total of 17.8 decreased prescribing rate after marijuana legalization.
New Mexico and New Jersey had the least number of increase in opioid prescribing rate of the 4 mentioned states, with only 2.4 and 1.6 increase in usage after marijuana legalization, respectively.
Here is the full data of our study:
|State||Legalization year||Opioid prescribing rate - 1 year prior to legalization||Opioid prescribing rate - 1 year after legalization||Change|
|District of Columbia||2015||40,1||32,5||-7,6|
National Drug Use & Health Subtance Abuse; Mental Health Administration
To support our point of view, let’s compare this to similar studies:
In an article published on Harvard Health Publishing, M.D Peter Grinspoon has shown “access to medical marijuana can reduce opioid consumption”.
A study conducted by Hefei Wen, Ph.D and Jason M. Hockenberry, Ph.D as of May 2018 showed that from 2011 to 2016, adult-use marijuana laws and medical marijuana laws were associated with lower opioid prescribing rates for Medicaid enrollees: 6.38% and 5.88% lower, respectively, compared with states without medical cannabis laws.
In October 2014, Marcus A. Bachhuber, Brendan Saloner, Ph.D, Chinazo O. Cunningham, MD, MS, and Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D, MPP also conducted a study to determine the association between the presence of state medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality. The report concluded: Between 1999 to 2010, states with medical cannabis laws (Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont) had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws. Although they still claim “further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.”
It has to be noted that fewer annual drug doses were also being prescribed per physician in the U.S from 2010-2013:
In the given period, there were 1,826 fewer doses of drugs per year per physician treating pain than in states without medical marijuana laws. Moreover, there were 562 and 541 fewer annual doses of drugs per year per physician to treat anxiety and nausea, respectively.
In summary, 78% of the states (where medical marijuana is legal) have shown an average reduction rate of opioid consumption by 5.21.
But what about licensed medical professionals such as physicians? What’s their take on this matter? This is where things start to make sense…
Opinions of Patients and Physicians
The effectiveness of cannabis vs opioid is so convincing that even physicians are starting to prescribe medical marijuana for their patients before opioids. Even though 23% are not prescribing it, 37% would consider prescribing it to their patients in 2017 while a surprising 40% are not yet sure as they need more research on medical marijuana.
To conduct this study, we selected 21 states in the U.S. where medical marijuana is legal. Specifically, we compared the data of the average opioid prescribing rate of 1 year before and after the legalization of medical marijuana.
States mentioned in this study and their legalization year:
- District of Columbia (2014)
- Illinois (2013)
- Massachusetts (2008)
- Michigan (2008)
- Arizona (2010)
- Arkansas (2016)
- Connecticut (2012)
- Delaware (2011)
- Florida (2016)
- Hawaii (2000)
- Maryland (2003)
- Minnesota (2014)
- New Hampshire (2013)
- New Jersey (2010)
- New Mexico (2007)
- New York (2014)
- North Dakota (2016)
- Ohio (2016)
- Pennsylvania (2016)
The data collected for this study relied on self-report. Some limitations that come with this include but are not limited to the following: selective memory, telescoping, and exaggeration. We can not be certain as to how close these data match up with reality.
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