Legalizing Marijuana May End the Opioid Crisis, Say Scientists

A new study shows how access to medical marijuana significantly impacted the use of opioids by patients.


As we reported previously, scientists from the University of New Mexico have been studying how access to marijuana may help alleviate the opioid crisis, declared a national emergency by President Trump. Their study has now been published in the journal PLOS One, with the researchers concluding that there is “clinically and statistically significant evidence” that increased cannabis use led to patients cutting down on opioids and improved their quality of life.

The study analyzed the health data of 66 patients who were using opioids habitually to manage their severe chronic pain. 37 of the patients were enrolled in a medical marijuana program between 2010 and 2015 while 29 patients in the control group were not.

The scientists found that patients using cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop their prescribed opioids and five times more likely to lower their daily dosage of opioids. On average, they cut their doses in half. Comparatively, the patients not enrolled in the medical marijuana program actually increased their opioid usage by more than 10%.

The cannabis use also had a positive effect on the life of the patients overall, with most reporting improved levels of activity, social life and concentration. None of the patients in the program reported adverse effects.

Effects of medical cannabis on the quality of life, social interactions, activity levels and concentration. Credit: PLOS One.

Overall, over 40% of medical cannabis patients stopped filling their opioid prescriptions completely after about a year and a half of being in the program. This result indicates that medical marijuana can be used as an effective alternative to opioids, say the scientists, especially in light of the statistics that over 90 people die from opioids every day in the U.S.

“If cannabis can serve as an alternative to prescription opioids for at least some patients, legislators and the medical community may want to consider medical cannabis programs as a potential tool for combating the current opioid epidemic,” wrote the scientists.

The researchers stress that their findings are preliminary and further studies are necessary, with larger samples.

You can read the current study here.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Space-faring humans: Why billionaires, not NASA, will get us there

Mega-rich entrepreneurs are taking us where no human being has gone before.

Videos
  • During the first golden era of space exploration, we went to the moon. Then we sort of dropped the ball for 50 years.
  • The problem is space travel is very expensive, especially the way governments do space travel.
  • Because it costs $10,000 to put a pound of anything into orbit around the planet, we need to have an infusion of public and private funds. That's where billionaires such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos come into the picture. With their help, we have new energies, new strategies, and new plans to go back into outer space.

10 new things we’ve learned about death

If you don't want to know anything about your death, consider this your spoiler warning.

Culture & Religion
  • For centuries cultures have personified death to give this terrifying mystery a familiar face.
  • Modern science has demystified death by divulging its biological processes, yet many questions remain.
  • Studying death is not meant to be a morbid reminder of a cruel fate, but a way to improve the lives of the living.
Keep reading Show less

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls for graduates to overcome "political noise" and algorithms

Cook's commencement speech at Tulane University urges students to take action.

Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a commencement speech at Tulane University on May 18th.
  • Cook cautioned the graduates to not get caught up in echo chambers and algorithms.
  • He acknowledged the failures of his generation.
Keep reading Show less