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.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

Videos
  • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
  • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
  • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
Keep reading Show less