Think legalization increases cannabis-related hospitalizations? You might be surprised that legalizing marijuana has the opposite effect, it lowers the risk of opioid-related deaths.
A new study found that legal states have lower opioid-related deaths. Solving the opioid epidemic will require a multi-prong approach. But legalization may be a positive step towards it.
Although medical marijuana reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers, health experts believe it's equally important to “understand the mechanisms through which marijuana policy affects opioid use and harms.”
A recent study has stumbled upon a surprising finding: in states with legalized medical marijuana programs, opioid painkiller deaths have taken a sharp downward turn.
Data analysis revealed that hospitals failed to see the predicted uptick of pot smokers cross through their doors, but instead found a substantial drop in opioid users. While fears that the legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an increase of cannabis-related hospitalizations were proven to be unfounded, researchers discovered opioid overdoses decreased by 13 percent. Considering deaths from opioid use have skyrocketed over the last decade, the results of the study are significant.
“[M]edical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers,” study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego, told Reuters. “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.”
Although Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, was not involved in the study, she found the findings intriguing.
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