Tag Archives: opioid

Feds Admit Marijuana’s Potential To Reduce Opioid Problems

Originally Posted By Tom Angell | May 01, 2017 – Here

A growing body of recent scientific research indicates that legal marijuana access leads to reduced opioid issues, and now the federal government can’t help but admit it.

In a new update to a webpage on cannabis’s medical uses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that “medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.”

Reporting the results of studies that the agency funded, the revised NIDA page says that one “found an association between medical marijuana legalization and a reduction in overdose deaths from opioid pain relievers, an effect that strengthened in each year following the implementation of legislation.”

A second federally-funded study “showed that legally protected access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with lower levels of opioid prescribing, lower self-report of nonmedical prescription opioid use, lower treatment admissions for prescription opioid use disorders and reduction in prescription opioid overdose deaths.”

Further, the latter study demonstrated that “the reduction in deaths was present only in states with dispensaries (not just medical marijuana laws) and was greater in states with active dispensaries.”

In other words, the federal government knows that the easier it is for people to access legal marijuana, the less likely they will rely on potentially deadly opiate-based drugs.

Other recent research suggests that “medical cannabis treatment may reduce the dose of opioids required for pain relief,” the new update to the NIDA page says, including one study which examined the Medicare program and found that “availability of medical marijuana significantly reduced prescribing of medications used for conditions that medical marijuana can treat, including opioids for pain.”

NIDA is funding a number of additional ongoing scientific investigations on the topic, the webpage says.

The new passage on opioids isn’t seen on the most recently cached version of the NIDA page on the Wayback Machine archived on April 18, suggesting it was added within the past two weeks.

Also last month, a separate study found that spending on prescription drugs through Medicaid is significantly lower in states with medical cannabis laws than in states without medical marijuana.

“If all states had had a medical marijuana law…[annual] total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion,” the researchers wrote.

The new NIDA website update is the latest development to suggest that the agency may be warming to the idea that legalization isn’t an outright public health disaster and may actually have some benefits.

Last week, when a study found that illegal marijuana use and marijuana use disorders increased significantly more in states with medical cannabis laws than in other states, NIDA Director Nora Volkow and other agency officials went out of their way to admit in a companion editorial that “research to date has not documented an increase in cannabis use by adolescents in the United States overall or in those states that enacted new marijuana laws.”

And in March, NIDA edited another marijuana page on its site to read as slightly more open to the idea that cannabis has medical benefits.

Despite the mounting evidence about marijuana’s potential to reduce opioid issues and NIDA’s admission of the same, other federal officials like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to dismiss the notion that cannabis could be a safer alternative to prescription drugs.

“‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break,” he said in February. “This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

Now, thanks to NIDA, the Trump administration has the science on marijuana and opioids compiled in one place.

Would legalizing medical marijuana help curb the opioid epidemic?

Originally published by Ronnie Cohen Mon Mar 27, 2017 | 4:46pm EDT here

(Reuters Health) – In states that legalized medical marijuana, U.S. hospitals failed to see a predicted influx of pot smokers, but in an unexpected twist, they treated far fewer opioid users, a new study shows.

Hospitalization rates for opioid painkiller dependence and abuse dropped on average 23 percent in states after marijuana was permitted for medicinal purposes, the analysis found. Hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average.

At the same time, fears that legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an uptick in cannabis-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, according to the report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers,” said study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego.

“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,” she said in an email.

Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, was intrigued by the study’s suggestion that access to cannabis might reduce opioid misuse.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity,” Choo, who was not involved in the study, said in an email. “Could increased liberalization of marijuana be part of the solution? It seems plausible.”

However, she said, “there is still much we need to understand about the mechanisms through which marijuana policy may affect opioid use and harms.”

An estimated 60 percent of Americans now live in the 28 states and Washington, D.C. where medical marijuana is legal under state law.

Meanwhile, the opioid epidemic – sparked by a quadrupling since 1999 in sales of prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin – kills 91 Americans a day.

Shi analyzed hospitalization records from 1997 through 2014 for 27 states, nine of which implemented medical marijuana policies. Her study was the fifth to show declines in opioid use or deaths in states that allow medical cannabis.

Previous studies reported associations between medical marijuana and reductions in opioid prescriptions, opioid-related vehicle accidents and opioid-overdose deaths.

In a 2014 study, Dr. Marcus Bachhuber found deaths from opioid overdoses fell by 25 percent in states that legalized medical marijuana.

Since last year, when New York rolled out its medical marijuana program, Bachhuber has included cannabis in a menu of options he offers his patients who suffer chronic or severe pain from neuropathy and HIV/AIDS, he said in a phone interview. Bachhuber, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, was not involved in the new study.

Many of Bachhuber’s patients ask for help quitting highly addictive opioids, and some have used marijuana to taper off the prescription painkillers, he said.

Nonetheless, a 1970 federal law puts cannabis in the same category as heroin, Schedule 1 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, and finds it has no medicinal value. Consequently, doctors can only recommend, not prescribe, marijuana, and physicians who work for the federal government cannot even discuss the weed.

Federal prohibition also has led to severe limitations on marijuana research.

In January, a National Academies report found conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis can effectively treat chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and spasticity. The report, written by an independent panel of medical experts, found no evidence of cannabis overdose deaths.

It did, however, find links between cannabis use and an increased risk of vehicle accidents as well as the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, particularly among the most frequent users.

Bachhuber lamented the dearth of research on the best ways to use marijuana as medicine.

“We have information that it works based on the National Academies’ report,” he said. “But we don’t know who it works best for, at what dosage, for how long.”

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top cop, reiterated his concerns about marijuana and heroin, an illegal opioid.

“I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana,” he told law enforcement officers in Virginia, “so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/2mRVepg Drug and Alcohol Dependence, online February 21, 2017.