From Dennis Thompson
MONDAY, June 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Medical marijuana has been a beacon of hope in the opioid epidemic, with states legalizing weed in the hope that its use will lead to a reduction in fatal overdoses through the use of painkillers.
Now, a new study is throwing cold water on that idea.
There is no connection between medical marijuana laws and opioid death rates for overdose, researchers report.
The OD death rate actually increased between 1999 and 2017 in states that legalized medical pot, rising by around 23%, according to the new results.
However, that does not mean that medical marijuana is an incentive for opioid ODs, researchers stress.
"We don't think this means that medical cannabis now kills people, and we also think it won't save sooner," said senior researcher Keith Humphreys.
"There must be other things to govern this relationship in this and that way, but it's not fundamentally a causal relationship," said Humphreys, a professor at Stanford University in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
The new report – in the 10th of June Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – Replicates and extends a 2014 study. The study found that medical marijuana may offer patients a less dangerous alternative to opioids for pain relief.
The earlier study found that national medical pot laws were associated with a 21% reduction in the death rate from opioid robberies between 1999 and 2010.
"States have used the findings from the earlier study as a justification for legalizing medicinal cannabis," said lead investigator Chelsea Shover, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford.
But the landscape of marijuana legalization has since changed in the United States. Medical marijuana is now permitted in 47 states, against just 13 states in 2010.
Humphreys, Shover and their colleagues decided to review and broaden the earlier study by adding seven years of data collected when pot-legalization flooded the nation.
"We repeated the original study, we used the same methods," Shover said. "We even found the same thing as when we stopped in 2010. But when we looked at a longer period of time, the trend went away and even vice versa."
Emily Feinstein is the chief operating officer of the Center on Addiction and executive vice president. She said the new study shows that many states have been "misled by insufficient or misinterpreted research into the idea that marijuana is an effective means of combating the opioid crisis.
"There is a lot of wishful thinking about marijuana, people want to see it as a magic bullet, or as a harmless, beneficial drug, but that image is driven by an industry that makes a profit for the health of the public," Feinstein said. "We need to develop marijuana policies based on strong, credible data, no associations, suggestions or personal experiences."
Researchers suspect the first set of positive findings was based on other state-level policies that reduced opioid deaths in states that happened to be early adopters of medical jars.
This policy included better access to health care, an emphasis on treating addiction as a disease, and policies that sent drug offenders into treatment instead of prison, Humphreys and Shover said.
The researchers also noted that only about 2.5% of the US population uses medical marijuana, making it unlikely that their use could affect death rates.
A representative of the marijuana pro-reform group NORML agreed that the new results have been formed by the inclusion of more states, but the group maintains the idea that medical pot can reduce drug overdoses.
"Not all medical or legalization programs are the same," says Mitch Earleywine, member of the NORML advisory board and professor of psychology at the University of Albany-State University in New York.
He believes that states that have recently adopted medical marijuana laws perform a worthless task by getting a medical pot in the hands of people who would benefit from it.
"Including a state with a brand new, barely functional distribution system in the group of & # 39; legal & # 39; or & # 39; medical & # 39; states will dilute the impact of the laws, because cannabis is simply not so available as possible in states with established programs that have been running for years, "Earleywine said.
Marijuana does have a place in medicine, Shover said.
"The conclusion of our study is that cannabis has no medical benefit, Cannabinoids seem to have medical benefits in certain contexts," Shover said.
But people should not hold onto false hope that medical pot laws will reduce opioid OD mortality, Humphreys said. Instead, states should focus on better policies that involve addicts in treatment and make the OD reversing drug naloxone more readily available.
"I understand the despair that is there," said Humphreys. "But we have to go with the evidence. It is not true."
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SOURCES: Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., Department Director, Mental Health Policy, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, California; Chelsea Shover, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, Stanford University; Emily Feinstein, J.D., chief operating officer and executive vice president, Center on Addiction, New York City; Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., member of the Advisory Board, NORML, and professor of psychology, university at New York's Albany-State University; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 10, 2019
. (tagsToTranslate) Legalizing the medical pot will not facilitate the opioid crisis study