Medical Marijuana Can Help Beat Opioid Epidemic

Photo Credit: Newsday

Photo Credit: Newsday

In yesterday's post, we discussed how doctors in Massachusetts are pioneering the use of of medical marijuana for reducing opioid addiction, but opioid drug abuse has been deemed one of the worst drug epidemics in history facing the nation. It is estimated nearly two million Americans over the age of 12 have abused or depend on prescription opioids, and about 44 of these addicts die of an opioid related overdose daily. Many of those addicted to opioids transition to illegal substances like heroin due to its cheaper price tag, and it is believed 77% of heroin addicts began their substance abuse using prescription opioid medications. The Center for Disease Control reported heroin use increased by 63% from 2002-2013, which corresponds with the increase in opioid prescriptions. Overdose related deaths have nearly quadrupled in that time period. 

In contrast, medical marijuana is a natural alternative to opioids that hasn't been credited with a single overdose related death. The plant is as effective in the treatment of acute and chronic pain, and because it does not possess addictive properties like opioids, it offers a promising substitution for opioid prescriptions. In a study by the RAND Corp. and the University of California supports this theory, researchers found states that legalized medical marijuana and regulated the substance through medically focused dispensaries witnessed a decline in opioid substance abuse by 15%, and a 31% reduction in opioid related overdoses. Using marijuana as a substitution for prescription medications should be approached cautiously and under the supervision of a physician, but with the opioid addiction epidemic at its worst, the time is now to start fighting the epidemic. 

This information is brought to you by Newsday and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.