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Yet Another Study Suggests Medical Cannabis Could Be the Solution to the Opiate Epidemic


Considering recent comments from the White House that suggested that cannabis is responsible in some way for the opioid epidemic in the United States, yet another study has been published that suggests the exact opposite. For ages, medical marijuana activists have suggested that medical marijuana is not only safer than opiates, but more effective as a long-term solution to chronic pain – and many patients agree, even suggesting that medical cannabis has helped them to reduce or eliminate the use of opiates in their lives.

Previous studies have suggested that these statements are very true, finding that in states where medical marijuana is legal, prescription opiate use has dropped significantly (as well as other prescriptions that may be replaced by medical marijuana such as those of epilepsy and Parkinson’s for example). As a result of that, these studies found that there are less opioid related deaths and overdoses in states where medical marijuana is available.

“Medical marijuana legalization was associated with 23% and 13% reductions in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse and [opioid pain reliever] OPR overdose, respectively; lagged effects were observed after policy implementation.”

A more recent study goes with a slightly different route, looking at the number of hospitalizations that were considered related between the years of 1997 and 2014, during which time many of the states with legal medical marijuana passed their laws and implemented their programs. The University of California researchers found an interesting trend – not only a reduction in opiate-related hospitalizations, but also no increase in cannabis-related ones. Also, the longer medical marijuana was available, the more the number of hospitalizations dropped.

“This study demonstrated significant reductions on OPR- (opioid pain reliever) related hospitalizations associated with the implementation of medical marijuana policies. … We found reductions in OPR-related hospitalizations immediately after the year of policy implementation as well as delayed reductions in the third post-policy year.“

This evidence clearly suggests that rather than causing the opiate epidemic, cannabis is actually helping to save people from it. Some states are even trying to get opiate addiction added to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis – although it’s a tough sell to lawmakers who are still so uncertain of how to go about this issue. However, every state that allows medical cannabis for chronic pain is one more that will likely see thousands of lives saved when a safer alternative is finally available to those who need it.


  1. Why when writing an article like this not reveal a major factor that has.to do with the opioid vs medical marijuana debate that even though medical marijuana can be a huge help in the long term relief of pain pain management doctors still won’t allow it . Almost all pain management doctors make you sign a contract that disallows any THC.Any one testing positive for THC runs the risk of being dropped and further pain meds denied. I’ve been on pretty powerful narcotics for over a year now and beg my doctor to let me try medical marijuana. Since he won’t allow it I’m scared to throw caution to the wind and try it . If it doesn’t work I’m screwed ! I’m sure a lot more patients would like the chance to try it ,and maybe be able / to cut their pill intake in half or better. There has to be something done about these contracts, I’m sure you would see opioid use go down a lot further. Is it the doctors or the pharmaceutical lobbyists standing between these hard expensive drugs and a safer way to handle pain ?

    • Chris G. – Neither. it’s the GOVERNMENT. Big Pharma supports that position, of course, but the actual barrier is our benevolent Federal (and some state) government. Schedule I means “no currently accepted medical use in the United States”, which in turn means that if a physician dares to prescribe marijuana, he loses his license to prescribe any other prescription drugs, and is therefore no longer able to do his job. Got it?
      I suggest that you join/support/contribute to one or more of the groups who are working to change the laws.

  2. ALOT of decisions doctors make are overshadowed by fear of litigation, the cost of malpractice insurance, and government scrutiny. Especially for pain management doctors. They are not concerned about the quality of your pain relief , they are concerned about the overbearing scrutiny the state and federal DEA has placed on them and keeping their livelihood. They are in business to earn a living like anyone else. Further, until the pharmaceutical industry is in the cannabis business, doctors will NEVER be truly onboard with it. Dosing measurement and results expected are inconsistent and hard to measure. Doctors are trained to adhere to dosing established in scientific studies. Things need to be measurable, and this has a bearing on common practice and insurability. They must be able to substantiate all their decisions, show good judgement consistently, and have established statistics/results to rely on. It will be quite some time before there is any intermingling allowed. Just like your family doc still wont recommend perfectly safe herbal remedies but will readily write you a script for a drug with a long list of possible side effects including death. Big pharma is limiting their exposure to risk, and thus protects their livelihood. Sad but true. Me, I have serious chronic pain and cant rely on self medicating to cover my pain. I am resigned to playing along but I resent it tremendously. And there’s sooo many folks being prescribed all the adjunct heavy duty muscle relaxers, benzodiazapienes, anti-convulsives and anti-depressants instead of a safe natural product. Exposing a person to all those risky medications when there is a much safer alternative borders on criminal if you think about it. But big pharma runs the show .

  3. Just a funny little side note , we lost our home a few years ago to Sandy , and have become renters . My land Lord is visiting family and checking on his other businesses here in the states . While sharing a cup of coffee in our living room my cane fell over and when he picked it up he noticed all the pill vials in my basket , and we got to discussing all the meds I’m on to help with my pain . After a few minutes he said wow in my country they would prescribe marijuana to help you get off these meds . Yup you guessed it my land Lord lives in Israel , and his wife is presently studying neuropathy. I told him how I’ve followed studies they’ve done and the reports I’ve read on the internet. It’s a shame we can’t share a little more with Israel then mid east security. By the way I am very active on the medical marijuana front with donations,petitions and contacting my political representatives , and Chris thanks ,but the argument wasn’t for my doctor to prescribe medical marijuana but rather to modify the pain management contracts . They don’t include alcohol so don’t include marijuana. This would at least leave the door ajar , for patients to give it a try without putting the doctor at risk. God knows they have enough to worry about but so do there patients. Thanks for the interest and input