Is legal weed the answer to Cleveland's opioid crisis?

Is legal weed the answer to Cleveland's opioid crisis?

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Research published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests in states where marijuana is legal, the amount of opioids being prescribed is lower.

In the U.S., 90 people a day die from an opioid overdose, according to the JAMA article.

Lawmakers are scrambling for solutions and this research may suggest legalizing weed needs be part of the conversation.

Many of those who abuse opioids first started out with some kind of pain issue and were prescribed an opioid.

That prescription can lead to an addiction, abuse and possibly death.

In this study, researchers looked at Medicaid opioid prescriptions from 2011-2016 in all states.

In states with some sort of legal weed, there were 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed.

That number climbs even higher in states where recreational weed is legal, not just medical marijuana, with 3.74 million fewer daily doses.

"Overprescribing of opioids is considered a major driving force behind the opioid epidemic in the United States. Marijuana is one of the potential nonopioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose," according to the JAMA article.

The study does acknowledge that by only looking at Medicaid prescriptions, more research is needed saying, "...conclusions drawn from Medicare Part D or Medicaid data, which include primarily disabled individuals, individuals 65 years or older, and others with low income levels, such as families, children, or pregnant women, may not be generalizable to other demographic groups."

Researchers also say they are behind in the study of legalized weed in the U.S. and more needs to be done to help science catch up to marijuana sales and use.

"Many companies and states (via taxes) are profiting from the cannabis industry while failing to support research at the level necessary to advance the science," the paper states. "This situation has to change to get definitive answers on the possible role for cannabis in the opioid crisis, as well as the other potential harms and benefits of legalizing cannabis."

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