Cannabis as a Solution to the Opioid Epidemic?

Regardless of where you live, you’re likely well aware of the opioid epidemic devastating large swaths of the country. In 2015, opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people – that’s more than 80 people each day. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, and around 80% of heroin users in the U.S. used prescription opioids before they began to use heroin.

Here’s another staggering statistic: the United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, but we consume 80% of the world’s opioids. The problem seems to be out of control. What can be done?

One answer seems to lie in cannabis. Last year, a study published by the JAMA Internal Medicine examined the rate of opiate-related overdoses in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010. The study found that in states where medical marijuana was legal, there were significantly fewer opioid overdoses than in states without medical marijuana. During the first year after legalization, overdose deaths dropped by an average of 20%. Five years after legalization, they had dropped by 33.7%. One of the study’s authors, Marcus A. Bachhuber said, “people already taking opioids for pain may supplement with medical marijuana and be able to lower their painkiller dose, thus lowering the risk of overdose.”

But isn’t cannabis a “gateway drug?” Some researchers wanted to find out whether, in fact, cannabis use led to harder drugs and more addictive behavior. A study published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs examined data from 273 registered medical cannabis patients at a clinic in Michigan. The results indicated that use of medical cannabis didn’t increase the likelihood of abusing alcohol or other drugs. Dr. Brian Perron, one of the authors of the study, noted “in states where medical marijuana is legal, physicians should be aware that medical marijuana is a potentially safer and more effective treatment than opioids.” Given the ubiquity of the opioid epidemic, it’s imperative that as a society we leave no stone unturned in finding a solution for the crisis.

At The Green Solution®, we believe strongly in the myriad benefits of medical cannabis, and that’s why we offer a 15% discount to medical card holders from any state, every day.