Marijuana Legalization may reduce opioid use in USA: Study

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on September 21, 2016.

A new research finds a decline in the use of opioid painkillers in States of the USA that legalized medical marijuana to treat various health problems. The study, which was published on Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, claimed that marijuana could substitute the use of opioids, including prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet.

In the study, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined a data of 69000 traffic fatalities from 1999-2013 in 18 U.S. states. They found that most states that passed medical marijuana laws saw an overall reduction in fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for opioids, particularly among drivers between the ages of 21 and 40.

“We would expect the adverse consequences of opioid use to decrease over time in states where medical marijuana use is legal, as individuals substitute marijuana for opioids in the treatment of severe or chronic pain,” lead author of the study June H. Kim, a doctoral student at Mailman, said in a statement.

Previous studies have found that opioid overdoses went down after medical marijuana laws were enacted, but this study was geared at opioids use more generally. Montana, for instance, had a 1.7 percent reduction in the number of people who tested positive for opioids after its medical marijuana law went into effect, the study showed.

Researchers also noted that those who tested positive may have been taking opioids as a doctor prescribed, and the use of the drug was not necessarily a contributing factor to the vehicle crash.

Notably, Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia in the USA have legalized medical marijuana while four states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana.

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