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Can medicinal marijuana lead to fewer opioid overdose deaths?

Can medicinal marijuana lead to fewer opioid overdose deaths?

11-29-2019 Posted in Detox Treatment, Drug Detox

Repeated calls for the legalization of marijuana are being raised in the country from time to time. Currently 33 states and the District of Colombia (DC) have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and 10 of these states have legalized the use of cannabis for recreational use also. One of the most notable argument supporting the use of marijuana for medical purposes is that it will help counter the opioid epidemic plaguing the country right now. Supporters argue that medical marijuana will provide a substitute for opioids in the treatment of chronic pain, thereby helping in lowering opioid prescriptions and thus overdose-related deaths.

According to some researchers, it has been observed that states where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes have recorded fewer number of opioid-related overdose deaths than those states where marijuana has not been legalized yet. A study conducted in 2014, which was mentioned by many lawmakers who supported the legalization of marijuana, had indicated that marijuana used for medicinal purposes may help in reducing overdose-related deaths provided only marijuana, instead of opioids, was used strictly in the treatment of pain.

However, a more recent study, using the same methodology has observed that the results are now exactly the opposite. In fact, opioid-related overdose deaths are now more interrelated with medicinal marijuana. It has been observed that states where marijuana is legalized have seen more opioid-related overdose deaths.

Findings from previous study exaggerated

According to lead author Chelsea Leigh Shover, Ph.D., saying that marijuana saved lives was naïve. She further added that legalization of marijuana had nothing to do with opioid-related overdose deaths. The link between opioid-related overdose deaths and medical marijuana use was highly doubtful, and the data from the previous study was merely a coincidence.

To ensure that her study used the same methodology and data as the 2014 study, Dr. Shover worked in close association with the lead researcher of the original study. The recent study also took into consideration marijuana laws for medicinal and recreational use.

Though more research would be needed to find out further details, Dr. Shover said that according to her findings, the relation between medicinal marijuana with fewer opioid-related deaths was exaggerated. Countering those questioning her studies, she said that since her study used the same methodology and data as the original study, those who believed in the previous study had to accept the findings of the new study as well.

Steps to counter opioid epidemic

Instead of depending on the theory that medical marijuana helped in countering opioid addiction, Dr. Shover said that officials should look for other options. Many experts have suggested alternate approaches to counter the opioid epidemic, which include:

  • Wide scale distribution and easy access to anti overdose medicines such as naloxone
  • Reduction in painkiller prescription and to be used as the last option and only for those who really need it
  • Easy access to alternate treatment protocols like buprenorphine
  • Implementation of proper policies addressing the underlying causes of addiction such as mental health illnesses
  • Reduction in social stigma attached to addiction and mental illnesses

Medications have always been considered the most effective form of treatment for addiction. Many studies have found that medications helped in reducing the mortality rate amongst patients addicted to opioids.

Speaking on the opioid addiction, Dr.  Shover said that she wished that the use of medicinal marijuana helped in reducing opioid-related deaths, but that was not the case. She said that though it made her unpopular, she wanted experts to focus on evidence-based options rather than focusing on some theory related to marijuana.

Seeking treatment for substance abuse

Access to proper treatment remains one of the main problems of dealing with addiction in the U.S. As per the official statistics, only one out of every 10 people suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) received specific treatment and in the case of opioid use, this number was one out of every five people. And even though some facilities did offer addiction treatment, the standards were not up to the mark.

If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to marijuana or any other drug and is looking for reliable drug detox treatment center or rapid detox programs in California, feel free to reach out to Hillside Mission. Our rapid detox treatment center in California offers comprehensive evidence-based detox treatment plans for substance abuse. For more information about our detox programs, call our 24/7 helpline (866)-225-6101 and speak to a member from our admissions team. You can also chat online to a representative to get more information about our inpatient rapid detox programs.

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