When hospitals in states where medical cannabis has been deemed legal see nearly 25% fewer patients for painkiller abuse, it is time to take notice. Specifically, it is time for politicians to take notice. Especially in traditionally red states where the opioid addiction epidemic is running particularly rampant.
Rural areas and places where manufacturing, lumber, and coal mining jobs are now scarce have been hit particularly hard, but there is no doubt that painkiller pill abuse strikes across all demographics and all socioeconomic levels.
Over the last few years, politicians have touted the line of marijuana as a gateway drug for other “harder” drugs as they seek to stop the marijuana movement. Instead of looking at the actual research being done, they instead seek to create fear for their political agendas.
Attorney Jeff Sessions, who is the most powerful attorney in the US, is one of the quickest to compare marijuana to opioids, another favorite line of ultra-conservative pundits. All this despite the fact that heroin and natural cannabis are not even remotely similar in their effects.
Now there is a new study in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence that makes some of the political talking points a bit more difficult to stand behind.
The gateway theory is giving way to the harm reduction theory as hospitalization rates for painkiller abuse in marijuana legal states have gone down. Not just a little bit down, but significantly down. At the same time, overdoses for opioids? Also down about 13% percent. Sort of starts to poke a few holes in their fear mongering, doesn’t it?
Finally, medical and mental health professionals seeking to slow the rate of deaths have some real numbers to bolster their points. When we know “Just Say No” absolutely does not work, it is clear that more innovative approaches to simply save people’s lives need to be implemented before we can work on even attempting to get people clean.
If marijuana works to help someone relieve pain, reduce anxiety, and they can still function on a daily basis, do they really have to get off it in the first place? Many people are beginning to use cannabis compounds with lower or no “high” while still reaping the benefits of the therapeutic properties. American Hemp Oil products are evolving quickly to fill the demand for such combinations.
One doctor, Esther Choo, who is an emergency medicine professor at Oregon Health and Science University said it is possible that changing attitudes toward legalization of cannabis could be a possible solution to the opioid epidemic.
Dr. Yuyan Shi, who led the research on the latest study, followed data from 27 states from 1997 to 2014. During that time, nine of the states in the study legalized marijuana and subsequently saw the drop in opioid admissions.
Another study from Johns Hopkins University showed states with medical marijuana laws had 25% fewer deaths from opioid than states without legal medical marijuana. It might be time for Jeff Sessions to crack open a medical journal instead of a law book.